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Power-packed Lord North bursts into middle-distance picture

Wed 17 Jun 2020

The emergence of a potential new star in the middle-distance division and a popular success for the Queen were the obvious highlights on the second day of Royal Ascot 2020.

Following what was a pulsating opening afternoon, the action at first glance appeared slightly less inspiring heading into Wednesday’s card, with the prestigious Prince of Wales’s Stakes very much the main attraction – and it was Lord North (5-1) who stole the show for John Gosden and James Doyle.

While a slow start set to the tone for an underwhelming performance from hot favourite Japan, nothing should be taken away from the dominant winner, who has progressed from Cambridgeshire winner to genuine top-notcher in less than nine months.

More top-level wins await the four-year-old gelding judged on this fleet-footed display, but whether Gosden will allow him take on his dual Arc-winning stablemate Enable in the Eclipse early next month remains to be seen.

Given the coronavirus pandemic has confined the Queen to Windsor Castle for this year’s Royal meeting – the first time she has missed attending the event in person during her 68-year-reign – it is perhaps fitting that the heavily-backed Tactical carried her colours to a gambled-on 7-2 victory in the Windsor Castle Stakes. That man Doyle did the steering on a day to remember.

Her Majesty was reportedly thrilled to see a horse she owned and bred strike gold in the style of one who will be more than comfortable in Group company later this summer.

Russian Emperor (100-30) may have earned himself a spot on Aidan O’Brien’s Investec Derby team after displaying class and courage in the Hampton Court Stakes under Ryan Moore, while the Owen Burrows-trained Hukum (12-1) might also be considered for Epsom after belying his inexperience to land the King George V Stakes – a fourth winner of the week for Jim Crowley.

William Knight’ Sir Busker and Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision were separated by just a head when first and second at Newcastle at the start of the month – and that form proved red-hot as the former won the Silver Royal Hunt Cup under champion jockey Oisin Murphy at 12-1 and Dark Vision (15-2) ended a long losing run in the Royal Hunt Cup itself, with William Buick the winning rider.

Fujaira Prince justified 3-1 favouritism in the concluding Copper Horse Handicap for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni.

Picture of the day

Quote of the day

Performance of the day

“Horses can do that from three to four, you know,” was John Gosden’s reply when asked if he was surprised by the improvement Lord North has made since last season. On his last visit to Ascot last September – his first start after being gelded – the son of Dubawi was narrowly beaten in a handicap off a mark of 98. Wind the clock forward little more than half a year and here he was putting previous Group One winners in their place with a sizzling turn of foot that will make him a force to be reckoned with in all the top 10-furlong races for the remainder of the season and beyond.

Ride of the day

Dark Vision looked a colt destined for the top after landing the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in the summer of 2018, but the subsequent two years have been a tale of woe and frustration. A drop in class and a falling handicap mark has made him look an attractive betting proposition on a few occasions, but each time he has managed to find a way to lose – until now. A narrow defeat at Newcastle suggested he may be on the comeback trail and under a perfectly-judged ride from William Buick, he rediscovered the exciting finishing kick that looked so potent a couple of years ago to scoop top honours with something to spare.

What’s next?

All eyes will be on another Gosden-trained ace on day three as the remarkable Stradivarius bids to become the first horse since four-time winner Yeats to claim a Gold Cup hat-trick under Frankie Dettori. The superstar chestnut has dominated the staying division for the past two seasons, winning back-to-back renewals of the Gold Cup, Yorkshire Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup to claim the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million in both 2018 and 2019. He suffered defeat on his reappearance in the Coronation Cup a couple of weeks ago, but was far from disgraced in finishing third over an inadequate trip and is likely to prove very tough to beat.

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