Circus Maximus and Arizona gave the Irish raiders a double on the first day of Royal Ascot 2019 while Lord Glitters earned a Breeders' Cup berth with an upset win and Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin got on the board as Blue Point got the better of old rival Battaash in the featured sprint.
The rains came to the races but only after Her Majesty the Queen, wearing a cornflower blue ensemble, was delivered by the lead carriage to the royal enclosure. She has attended faithfully since 1945, when she was Princess Elizabeth.
The five-day meeting was off to a surprising start with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes as 14-1 chance Lord Glitters surged between horses a furlong out and won a head-bob finish over 20-1 shot Beat the Bank. One Master, also dispatched at 20-1 odds, finished third while the favorite, Barney Roy, was never involved, finishing eighth, and last year's winner, Accidental Agent, refused to leave the starting gate.
Lord Glitters, a 6-year-old gelding by Whipper, finished second in last year's Queen Anne. He hardly ran a lick in his last race before the Royal meeting, finishing 13th in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury May 18. Before that, however, he was third behind Japanese sensation Almond Eye in the Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night at Meydan.
"He's better than that," jockey Daniel Tudhope said of the Lockinge result, "and was second in this last year. He deserves to land a big one and is a super horse on his day. When things go right for him he's very good."
He may have a chance to prove that in the autumn as the Queen Anne is a "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Mile. For now, said trainer David O'Meara, "We will follow a pretty similar path with him to last year and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood is probably next up."
Blue Point and James Doyle winning the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes (1000m), picture Liesl King
It was all favourites in the day's second event, the Group 2 Coventry Stakes for 2-year-olds. Arizona, racing for the Irish Coolmore combine, idled at mid-pack in the 17-horse field through the first two-thirds of the race, then kicked into gear for jockey Ryan Moore just in time to defeat Threat by 1/2 length. Guildsman was third.
Arizona is a son of No Nay Never, winner of the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at the 2013 Royal Ascot. He came to the race after a 9-lengths victory in a maiden race at the Curragh and clearly is still learning what's expected of him by trainer Aidan O'Brien, who scored his 66th Royal Ascot triumph.
"He's impressed on all of his starts and has a super attitude," said Moore, who won his 54th Royal Ascot race. "He's not fully switched on yet and the penny hasn't dropped to get into gear. But he'll probably benefit when he goes up in trip."
"You'd imagine he will be a miler next year," O'Brien agreed. "He's probably quicker than he lets on, because he's still a baby, but you'd always think he'd have no problem getting seven (furlongs)."
The punters had it right, too, in the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes -- the first of two top-level sprints at the meeting -- as Blue Point held off Battaash in the final furlong to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The result was a reprise of last year's King's Stand and the two went to the post as the solid favorites in a field of 12 for the 5-furlongs dash.
James Doyle had the ride on Blue Point, a 5-year-old son of Shamardal, subbing for William Buick, who is recovering from injury. "All I was worried about was the rain coming down," Doyle said. "And actually it just stayed off."
Blue Point, trained by Charlie Appleby for Sheik Mohammed's Godolphin Racing, came to England after three straight wins during the Dubai season, capped with a handy score in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint.
Sheik Mohammed, accepting the winner's trophy from Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, said Blue Point's effort "has given me a lot of pleasure. When you win a Group One, you are very happy … It is very good to get a winner at Royal Ascot. Everybody wants a horse that is able to run at Royal Ascot."
Circus Maximus was supplemented to the day's third Group 1, the St James's Palace Stakes for 3-year-olds, after finishing sixth in the Investec Derby. With blinkers added and cutting back by 1/2 mile, the Galileo colt was right in the mix from the start, dueled with the favorite, Too Darn Hot, in the final furlong and then held off a hot late run by King of Comedy to win by a neck over that one.
It was the 67th Royal Ascot win for O'Brien and 55th for Moore, who said with a smile he felt the pressure after the Coolmore "lads" supplemented Circus Maximus to the race.
"They supplement him, you have to win," Moore said as he brought Circus Maximus, a 10-1 wager, to the winner's enclosure. "He ran a good race in the Derby. He just didn't stay."
Circus Maximus was produced by Duntle, a Danehill Dancer mare who won the Sandringham Handicap at 2012 Royal Ascot but finished seventh in the following year's Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington Park.
As the rain intensified into a downpour, the first day of the meeting finished with The Grand Visir, a son of Frankel, holding off late-running Buildmeupbuttercup in the 2 1/2-miles Ascot Stakes and Addeybb kicked away in the final furlong to an easy victory in the Wolferton Stakes at 9 furlongs. Magic Wand, another from Coolmore, got second in a three-way photo.