Godolphin have won both the big races on the opening day of Royal Ascot, thanks to Ribchester in the Queen Anne and Barney Roy in the St James’s Palace Stakes. Churchill, the hottest favourite of the week, turned in a very flat performance in the latter contest and finished fourth.
The two successes count as an enormous fillip for Sheikh Mohammed’s organisation, rocked in recent weeks by the departure of its chief executive, John Ferguson, who quite after losing the confidence of the trainer Saeed bin-Suroor. They also vindicate the fairly new Godolphin policy of leaving horses with their original trainers after buying them, since Ribchester is with Richard Fahey and Barney Roy with Richard Hannon.
In the winner’s enclosure, the Sheikh recalled the very first winner to carry his colours, Hatta at Brighton just over 40 years ago. “Hatta was my first horse and people were surprised when she beat the favourite at Brighton. From that day, we have moved forward and we are really enjoying it.
“In life there is no winning post. You have to keep going otherwise the rest will catch up with you.”
Barney Roy won despite his saddle slipping as he emerged from the stalls, which his jockey, James Doyle, cooly described as “a bit of a worry”. He added: “I’d been watching Churchill’s races to find a chink and it didn’t look like there was … Luckily he was just a good horse and we’ve got one a bit better.”
He added: “It’s been an up and down season and when I knew I’d got the ride on this fellow I was pretty excited.
“He felt good at Newbury [Greenham] but it didn’t go our way in the Guineas. He’s proved what a good horse he is there. When we jumped out of the gate my tack slipped back a bit, which was a bit of a worry, but he stuck at it well off the turn.
He added: “This is why I joined the team [Godolphin], to ride big winners like this, so to ride one when he [Sheikh Mohammed] is here today makes me feel very proud.”
In the other races run so far, Lady Aurelia followed up her success at last year’s Royal Ascot by streaking clear in the King’s Stand, a winning ride missed by the injured Frankie Dettori. Rajasinghe sprang an 11-1 surprise in the Coventry.