Motakhayyel powers home to claim first race of Royal Ascot behind closed doors

Tue 16 Jun 2020

Motakhayyel finished with a flourish to claim top honours in the Buckingham Palace Handicap as Royal Ascot 2020 got under way behind closed doors.

The Richard Hannon-trained colt won his only juvenile start in 2018 and hit the mark twice from four starts at three, but disappointed on his most recent appearance at this venue last July.

A large field of 23 runners swiftly split into three groups, with 14-1 shot Motakhayyel always positioned in the group that raced closest to the empty stands in the hands of Jim Crowley.

Entering the final furlong, Motakhayyel disputed the lead with fellow Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned runner Mutamaasik, but the former came home best to score a shade comfortably.

Jack’s Point, a largely unconsidered 66-1 shot, chased home the winner to beat Mutamaasik to the runner-up spot, with Cliffs Of Capri finishing fourth.

Hannon said: "I'm going to be famous for being the first train a Royal Ascot winner behind closed doors, but that doesn't matter one bit.

"I think the racecourse has done a fantastic job in holding the meeting and we have to be extremely grateful and thankful for that.

"I think without this there wouldn't have been much to look forward to in a fairly gloomy period. Those watching on television will be delighted to see this back again.

"The fact there isn't 60,000 people here is a massive difference. Maybe there are more at home watching on television than there has been before. Maybe there is more people paying attention than if they were here having a lovely time.

"It is fantastic. What has been a gloomy few months it looks like sport is coming back in the right way and racing is adapting and we are showing we can adapt to new regulations and it is great."

On plans for the winner, Hannon said: "That gallop at Kempton would have helped big time as he is a massive horse and he would have needed that, as it is his first run of the year. Ours need it, especially when they get to the age of this horse.

"We could go to the Bunbury Cup or Goodwood for what was the old Schweppes Mile that Beat Le Bon won last year. He might even be a Listed horse, but he didn't move right at the end of last year and that is when we decided to pack him up and save him for this year.

"I put him in a race at Newmarket's Guineas meeting. We agreed he was a big, heavy horse and if we went there we might risk the chance of him just being a bit sore to come here, so we decided to come straight here and it's paid off."

Crowley said: "It's just as sweet (even behind closed doors). We had four in the race and I thought I had made the right decision. He's done it well. It was a great training performance.

"It's just as exciting. Obviously we don't have the crowd there, but it's competitive racing and it's never easy to win at Royal Ascot."

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