Sixth place finish for Spielberg at Royal Ascot
Spielberg (1st from right)
On the second day of Royal Ascot, the time finally arrived for the long awaited international showdown in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. Sadly, the big American hope, California Chrome, had to sit out the race due to an abscess, and his participation could have made a big difference as to how the pace of the race might have unfolded, and consequently the end result in the Grade 1 contest over 2000 meters, run on good to firm ground on Wednesday. As it was, the 4-year-olds dominated the race, with the favourite, Free Eagle, just getting the better of The Grey Gatsby, with Japanese hope Spielberg far from disgraced in sixth, as the Australian runner, Criterion, stayed on gamely to take fifth place, just a neck in front of Spielberg.
With California Chrome’s withdrawal, there came a fair amount of disappointment, as the field was reduced to nine runners, and the chance to see the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner in action in England failed to materialize. The race still produced its fair share of excitement, however, as the starter sent them on their way, and Gailo Chop from an outside draw was soon driven to take the lead from Criterion in second, and eventual winner, Free Eagle, having his first run in nine months, settled in third. From gate five, Spielberg got away well and was in sixth or seventh place for most of the race, but could probably have done with a slightly faster pace to help his chances. As the field reached the seven furlong marker and started to climb uphill, Gailo Chop still took them along, although not with so much urgency, and runners in behind, including The Grey Gatsby and the Lanfranco Dettori ridden Western Hymn, were sensing their time was coming to make a move. It was pretty much anybody’s race as they turned for home, but Pat Smullen aboard Free Eagle decided he could wait no longer, and although later he admitted he thought he might have gone too early, the decision proved spot on, with The Grey Gatsby unable to hit top gear until very late. Spielberg looked to have a chance turning for home, but just hung to the right at one point, and despite some strong driving from jockey Christophe Soumillon, his battle with Cannock Chase seemed the focal point, while the first three home had already flown. Ectot was unable to keep up down the home straight and finished last of the nine runners.
It was a first Grade 1 victory for Free Eagle, who is held in high regard by his connections. Winning jockey, Pat Smullen, commented: “I’ve never enjoyed a winner like it. I’ve been saying for so long how good this horse is.” The colt, by High Chaparral, is owned by Moyglare Stud Farms Ltd., is trained by Dermot Weld, and will now be considered for the Irish Champion Stakes or possibly the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The distances were a short head and 2 3/4 lengths, and the race was run in a time of 2 minutes 5.07 seconds.So Japan still waits for its first Royal Ascot winner, but Spielberg’s trainer, Kazuo Fujisawa, was pretty pleased with his horse’s performance, saying, “He ran well. I was happy to see Spielberg settled closer to the pace than he usually is in Japan, as the pace was slower here than at home. I thought he had a good chance at the top of the straight, however, he edged right at a crucial point on the run for home.” The same connections have another chance with Super Moon in the Wolferton Handicap Stakes on the last day of the meeting on Saturday.