It was an unforgettable day for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Godolphin as they celebrated a treble on the first day of Royal Ascot, including two Group Ones, 40 years to the day since he had his first winner in England.
The racing had got underway once a minute’s silence was observed – with Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal Family standing in the parade ring – in honour of the memories of the victims of the London tower block fire last week and the terror attacks that have struck England in recent months.
Ribchester struck the first blow for Godolphin when he broke the course record for a mile in the opening Queen Anne Stakes.
And Sheikh Mohammed’s mood was even sweeter as his nemesis Aidan O’Brien’s 2000 Guineas double winner Churchill couldn’t summon up his namesake’s fighting spirit, and was left floundering in fourth as Godolphin’s Barney Roy won the feature St James’s Palace Stakes.
Godolphin’s treble was completed by Sound And Silence in the Windsor Castle.
Sheikh Mohammed’s delight at Ribchester’s victory in the course record time of 1min 36.6sec was palpable, kissing one of his daughters in his box – the surroundings a far cry from when Hatta won at Brighton four decades ago to spark a great love affair with the turf.
“Hatta was my first horse and people were surprised when she beat the favourite at Brighton,” said Sheikh Mohammed.
“From that day, we’ve 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’s success turned the tables on Churchill, having finished second behind O’Brien’s star in the English 2000 Guineas, and vindicated Sheikh Mohammed’s decision to miss the Irish equivalent and come to Ascot.
“That was what Sheikh Mohammed wanted and he was dead right,” said Barney Roy’s trainer Richard Hannon. “It means everything to win this.”
The James Doyle-ridden colt looked at ease on a flatter surface, travelling kindly in midfield during the early stages of the mile contest.
As Lancaster Bomber, stablemate of the odds-on Churchill, pressed on early down the straight, the market principals were wound up for their efforts, with the eventual winner coming under a maximum drive over a quarter of a mile from home.
While Barney Roy responded to pressure, Churchill’s hopes of a fifth top-level victory in succession were soon over, with the favourite having no more to give from a furlong or so out.
Going through the gears late on, Barney Roy swooped past Lancaster Bomber close to the line to defeat the O’Brien runner by a length in a course-record time, with Thunder Snow a further head back in third.
Hannon added: “He is the horse we always thought he was. We went to the Guineas to prove he is a good horse and he did that. He was slightly unlucky there and he has won very well today.
“He has a lovely long stride and he uses that. He takes time to get going and no doubt he will get further. I thought this track would suit him as the dips at Newmarket just caught him out.”
O’Brien – who until yesterday had carried almost all before him this season in winning three of the four English classics – said Churchill had run a good race, but jockey Ryan Moore was perplexed.
“He was never comfortable, I’m not sure why,” said Moore.
Saeed bin Suroor, trainer of Thunder Snow, felt a surface with more give in it would be beneficial.
He said: “I’m happy with him, he ran really well. I think he would be better with easy ground, but I am happy with the way he ran.”
Source: Press Association
Teenage Emirati motorsport sensation Amna Al Qubaisi was left “feeling like a Formula One driver” after her first unofficial testing ahead of her Formula 4 debut in 2018.
The 17-year-old, who will become the first Arab female to race in the competition after signing a deal with Prema team, sponsored by Kaspersky Lab, got her first feel of being behind the wheel of the car that will see her go head-to-head against some of the world’s most promising racers.
Amna completed various 10-lap sessions at Yas Marina Circuit late last night and was left in awe.
“I had this mini moment of, ‘oh my gosh this is how a Formula One driver feels on this track’, and it was simply great,” she said. “I really enjoy driving the car as it’s with a good setup and I love the speed.”
It’s a much different challenge to what she was used to last season, having enjoyed numerous success in karting including becoming the first Emirati to win the UAE senior Rotax Max Challenge.
Formula One remains her main target and by joining the fourth-tier of the competition, she has every chance of achieving that goal. F4 is the first step for many rising stars of motorsport and racers can receive FIA Super Licence points, which are required to drive in F1.
— Denzil M Pinto (@denz_360) June 14, 2017
And after just a few hours on the track, the Daman Speed Academy junior is already feeling the difference between the two disciplines.
“It’s totally different to karting,” she said. “In this type of racing, it happens so quickly and the shifting and braking is a bit of a challenge as I have to brake much harder than you would do in karting, but there’s other issues like making sure you are racing in the correct line and judging the corners correctly. It’s a whole new experience.
“It requires a lot of fitness especially in the arms. Shifting is not really new to me and have driven vehicles that involves shifting but it’s a really good experience.”
More testing sessions are planned later this year, which could include her travelling to Europe to drive the car – something that she’s looking forward to.
She added: “I will have more five or six sessions at Yas Marina Circuit but in a few months time I will be testing in Europe. Testing that on a different track to what I’m not used to will be will be a challenge. At this stage, it’s all about getting used to the feel of the car and once that passes by, I’ll worry about the timings.”
Since her deal, she has been busy spending more time in the gym as well as giving interviews to UAE and international media. “It’s been really good as I’ve spoken to some media organisations, including BBC, and it really has helped me a lot to build my confidence and hopefully it will inspire other Arab women to take up sport.”
Nour El Sherbini insists she will learn from the pain of defeat and come back stronger next season after losing to Laura Massaro at the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals.
The reigning world champion and world number one, 21, was whitewashed 3-0 by veteran Massaro, 33, at Dubai Opera on Saturday, having battled back from 1-0 down and an injured wrist in Friday’s semi-final against Camille Serme to reach the showpiece.
The Egyptian lost two tight opening sets 11-8 and 12-10 before losing her composure in the third in which she was beaten easily 11-5 as Massaro retained her title in Dubai.
But, as in most sports, you tend to learn more from your defeats rather than your victories, and El Sherbini certainly intends to grow from this loss.
“It’s important to take the positives from defeat. At the end of the season I lost in the final so I’m definitely going to take the positives and learn from the bad things,” said the Alexandria native, who claimed she’d not enjoyed the best of campaigns despite retaining her world championship crown in her homeland against compatriot Raneen El Welily in April.
“Take a negative and try to improve it. Every loss is a lesson, not a bad thing. Throughout the whole season I did not enjoy the best results that I wanted so I will try to improve a bit and change a lot of things in my training and see how next season goes.”
Massaro’s victory saw her edge to 7-4 ahead in the head to head against El Sherbini, and the youngster admitted experience is something that will also improve the more she plays her fellow elite players.
“Definitely it (experience) plays a part,” she added. “She’s been playing for so long and has more experience. I don’t remember how many times we played but she beats me a lot. It’s a thing I have to think about in the future.”