Regal and Royal, continued

Continued from part 1

Golan bypassed opening day's St. James's Palace Stakes but the French (Noverre) and Irish (Black Minnaloushe) Guineas (both gr. I) winners were in the field of 11 along with Vahorimix, second at Longchamp. Aidan O'Brien's stable jockey, Michael Kinane, had chosen Minardi at the Curragh when Johnny Murtagh swept late on Black Minnaloushe, and O'Brien asked him to ride the colt again at Ascot.

"I thought the Irish Guineas was unfair to Minardi who had to take the field up to (front-running) Mozart, so I asked Mick to ride Minardi here," said O'Brien. So much for being a team player, as Black Minnaloushe, named by Sue Magnier for a cat in a W.B. Yeats poem, rolled late to beat Noverre by a neck with Prix Jean Prat (Fr-I) winner Olden Times third and Minardi eighth.

Minardi will probably return to sprinting but Black Minnaloushe, a "very serious racehorse," could now stretch out against his elders in the Eclipse Stakes "and maybe later in the year we will start talking about the Breeders' Cup for him," according to O'Brien. The trainer already has Epsom Derby (Eng-I) winner Galileo earmarked for the Classic (gr. I).

"The Classic could suit him (Black Minnaloushe)," said Murtagh, who was Ascot's champion rider with five wins compared to Dettori's three. "He'll get a fast pace, he'll relax, and he won't mind the kickback. He gives you the impression you could throw stones at him and he wouldn't mind."

The Coronation Stakes brought together the Newmarket One Thousand (Eng-I) winner, Ameerat, attempting to become the first filly to complete the double since 1979, French One Thousand Guineas (Fr-I) heroine Rose Gypsy, and her unlucky runner-up, Banks Hill, plus the third-place finisher, Lethals Lady. Throw in Crystal Music, second to Oaks (Eng-I) winner Imagine in the Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) and this was a race to savor.

It may have been the most impressive performance of the meeting as, in a race similar to Fantastic Light's, Khalid Abdullah's Banks Hill came off a slow early pace to triumph going away by 1 1/2 lengths over Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Crystal Music. It was another half-length back to Godolphin's Tempting Fate. The winner and the second started 4-1 joint favorites in the field of 13.

"She (Banks Hill) was a little unlucky in the Pouliches (French One Thousand Guineas) but it was as much the ground that day," said trainer Andre Fabre after his second Coronation (Golden Opinion, 1989). "It robbed her of her initial speed and she was struggling to keep up. She could stay at a mile but her style of running suggests she could go a little further."

The Gold Cup isn't the longest race of the meeting -- the Queen Alexandra Stakes at an extended two miles, six furlongs holds that honor -- but some would like to see it shortened in line with the distance of the summer's other major staying races, the 16-furlong Goodwood Cup (Eng-II) or 18-furlong Doncaster Cup (Eng-III).

Traditionalists enjoyed a classic staying contest this year, however, and a heartbreaking finish when most of the crowd failed to will 8-year-old Persian Punch across the finish line first in his fifth attempt to win the race.

Jeff Smith's runner had to give best to Peter Savill's, Murtagh-partnered Royal Rebel, but after being headed a quarter-mile out, he fought back gamely to go down by just a head.

"I went a half-length up and he (Royal Rebel) just stopped," said the rider. "That's the kind of horse he is. If you ask him for 110%, he'll give it to you, but you never want to ease up on him or he'll stop."

Savill, chairman of the British Horseracing Board, was almost too tired to celebrate the £121,800 ($293,572) win. A 10-year, £307 million television deal for racing had appeared dead on the eve of Royal Ascot, but three meetings among the principals that went into the wee hours finished the deal on June 22 (see page 3763).

Royal Rebel's trainer Mark Johnston, who collected three wins at the meeting, was winning his sixth group I and first Gold Cup since Double Trigger took the honors in 1995. "I don't consider this race an anachronism," he said. "I like it because it's wonderful to have horses that come back year after year. I'd love to have a stableful of these old (staying) horses."

Trainer Aidan O'Brien's dazzling year continued at Ascot where he won four races to lead all trainers. Including Black Minnaloushe's St. James's Palace Stakes, the Ballydoyle maestro has bagged the last five group I races for 3-year-olds in Britain and Ireland...both Irish Guineas (Black Minnaloushe and Imagine) and the Epsom Oaks and Derby (Imagine and Galileo). Throw in the French One Thousand Guineas (Rose Gypsy) and the Tabor/Magnier juggernaut is leaving Godolphin far behind this year.

O'Brien, like his runners, commuted daily during the week, flying home to Ireland every night to supervise three lots each morning before a flight back to Farnborough airfield and a short car journey to Ascot.