Rosallion Picks up Ascot Baton From Blue Point

Rosallion and Sean Levey | PA Media

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ASCOT, UK–A wishlist for the first day of Royal Ascot would certainly have included the hope that a Classic-winning colt would step forward and announce himself as a proper horse, a major win for an international traveller, and the sight of the inimitable Sir Mark Prescott in the winner's enclosure. Tick. Tick. Tick.

We'll throw in to the mix a tearful Mark Loughnane proclaiming the 80/1 Coventry S. victory for his jockey son Billy as “the best ever moment of my life”, and Sam Sangster, equally tearful as his father's famous colours were carried in on the back of Loughnane, who in turn was on the back of Rashabar (Ire). In short, it was a day that had everything. 

It's too early to talk about coronations for the Classic generation but the horse pushing himself to the front of the queue to be called the next champion is Rosallion (Ire), who won the unofficial battle of the Guineas winners to continue his sire's illustrious association with the royal meeting. Blue Point (Ire) had himself dazzled on this day in both 2018 and 2019, taking back-to-back runnings of what was then the King's Stand S., before bowing out with a final audacious victory four days after the second of these wins in the Diamond Jubilee S. He hasn't taken long to make his presence felt in his second job. 

Rosallion and then Big Evs (Ire) became his first and second top-flight winners on the international stage last year, at the Arc meeting and the Breeders' Cup respectively, and both have stepped up again this year. Big Evs showed blistering early pace in his attempt to emulate Blue Point in the King Charles III S. But ultimately had to give best to Asfoora (Aus) and Regional (GB) when finishing a length and a half back in third. 

We discussed Rosallion's family in greater detail in these pages yesterday. It is one already heavily laden with classy animals, and if his dam Rosaline (GB) had looked a little disappointing in the early days as the sole unraced daughter of the celebrated Reem Three (GB), then boy is she making up for it now. 

“Quite often you call these horses something that they're not, because you want them to be the best horse you've trained – and quite often you are disappointed. That's an occupational hazard. But this lad has never let me down,” said Richard Hannon, who bore a look of disbelief after Rosallion was beaten by Notable Speech (Ire) in the 2,000 Guineas but has subsequently been fully vindicated in his staunch belief in the colt. 

On this day 12 months ago, Rosallion's relation Triple Time (GB) had given their owner-breeder Sheikh Mohammed Obaid another Group 1 success in the Queen Anne S., a race which this year fell to Nurlan Bizakov. The man behind the Sumbe operation has been enjoying a great season with his runners in France and beyond, and Charyn has been his main flagbearer in Britain, winning three of his four starts and finishing second to Audience (GB) in the Lockinge. While Bizakov's stud manager Tony Fry, admitted that he was already preparing a stallion box for Charyn at Haras de Montfort, smiling on from the sidelines was a member of the family who bred him and who stands his sire Dark Angel (Ire).

Robert O'Callaghan admitted that he was the sole member of the clan at Ascot this week and his brother Guy, who bred the four-year-old under his Grangemore Stud banner, was too jittery to join him on the pilgrimage. 

“His nerves got the better of him and he couldn't come,” he said. “Guy's a real box-walker, and if [Charyn] had not won today it would have been a long day here with him. This is the first Group 1 winner for his own farm so it's a great start for him.”

O'Callaghan added of Charyn, “Like most of the Dark Angels he's getting better with age. They thrive on their racing. He's such a genuine horse. I don't think he quite got the credit he deserved last year for the races he ran. He was placed in all those Group 1s and didn't quite have his day, but this year his first two starts have been brilliant and he was a but unlucky the last day, but today it all fell right. It's brilliant.”

 

Sir Mark Prescott won the Ascot S. with Pledgeofallegiance | PA Media

 

As for Asfoora, she has been making herself at home in Newmarket over the last few months and the great news is that we are likely to be seeing plenty more of the Australian mare this summer as part of a bold campaign by trainer Henry Dwyer to take in Goodwood, York and perhaps even Longchamp. But Royal Ascot is the one that draws the international raiders here in the first place and in the surge towards the winner's enclosure after the mare's emphatic victory there was barely an English accent to be heard as the Australians took charge. 

There were 40 in Asfoora's entourage alone, including six members of Akram El-Fahkri's family. The owner-breeder, who owns Noor Elaine Farm in Euroa, may not be staying in Europe as long as his star graduate but of this dream Group 1 victory for Asfoora, he said with no little understatement, “This is something that is extremely satisfying. She has been superb, but this is all credit to Henry Dwyer. He has been the impetus behind everything.”

All the stallion men would have had eyes on the Coventry, but few could have predicted a trifecta of runners who were sent off at 80/1, 40/1 and 50/1. Perhaps the only people not shocked by the result were trainer Brian Meehan and Sam Sangster, who runs the ownership syndicate behind Rashabar, Manton Thoroughbreds, and has been quietly compiling a record which marks him out as a man with a distinctive eye for a good horse.

Last year, the same syndicate's Isaac Shelby (GB) had beaten Charyn to win the G3 Greenham S. and was then narrowly denied when second in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains. Sangster suffered similar agony this year when Kathmandu (Ire), whom he shares with Ed Babington and who runs in the same colours made famous by his late father Robert, was beaten a head in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches. This time, however, the verdict went his way.

He said, “There was an unbelievable amount of pride as he crossed the line. I was in tears behind my sunglasses.

“The reason why we set the syndicate up 10 years ago was to keep the colours going. We buy six horses every year and it has been fantastic in the last few few years, with Isaac Shelby last year and this fella this year.

“I get a bit emotional when I talk about the colours and the old man.”

For their jockey, it was both a first winner at Royal Ascot and a first group victory in Britain. It will soon be time to stop calling him Billy the Kid, but Loughnane is still only 18, even if he celebrated the 200th win of his career at Windsor on Monday night. He has the composure for the big time, and on a day packed full of stars he shone as brightly as any.

 

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