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Merchant Navy lands dramatic Diamond Jubilee Stakes

23 Jun 2018

Former Australian-trained colt wins by short head after Harry Angel loses all chance in stalls.

Merchant Navy, right, edges out City Light, left, and Bound For Nowhere at the end of a pulsating Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Picture: Racingfotos.com

Many of the eight QIPCO British Champions Series at Royal Ascot this week have not quite gone to plan for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore but pair ended up all smiles after  Merchant Navy won a dramatic renewal of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

The colt, trained in Australia before being transferred to Ballydoyle, prevailed by a short head from the fast finishing French challenger City Light. Bound For Nowhere, from America, was three quarters of a length behind in third after setting a frantic pace with The Tin Man, fourth, best of the home team.

There was drama at the start when the brilliant Harry Angel, the 5-2 favourite, reared in the stalls  and his left hind was resting on a running board when the stalls opened. His race was effectively over before it had started an he trailed home eleventh and in need of veterinary attention.

Trainer Clive Cox said: “Harry Angel is not straightforward in the stalls, as you can see. It’s a big shame it has happened and it has affected the whole day really.

“He has a nasty puncture wound, which we are concerned enough about. He was not sound behind when he came in – he wasn’t dreadful, but he wasn’t sound. I am just sorry for everyone and it’s a shame, but I think we will be fine.

Adam Kirby, who rode him added: “He has always been a character in the stalls. I am gutted really – I just hope the horse is OK. It is no one’s fault – there is nothing you can do.”

Meanwhile, Moore was relieved his mount had come out on top. He suffered interference from Bound To Nowhere in the latter stages at the finish it was unclear who had triumphed.

“I can’t repeat what I was thinking when I hit the line,” Moore said. “Merchant Navy is a remarkable horse. He hasn’t been up here long. He has had two starts here and won them both, beating high-class fields, and he is only a young horse.

“I sat third and I didn’t really want to be third. I had to go sooner than I would have liked. The race didn’t really go to script for anybody I would have thought.

“I thought I would have won easier, but Bound For Nowhere leaned into me and we got very tight, so he lost his rhythm for a second. If I had got beat, I would have been very unlucky.”

Most bookmakers now make Merchant Navy favourite for next month’s Darley July Cup but his future is unclear.

“We were always told that he was only here for Royal Ascot because he has stallion commitments in Australia,” O’Brien said. “That’s why we were so anxious to get a run into him at the Curragh, because we knew that we might not have him after Ascot. We will have to see what happens now, but that was the plan as far as I was told. The plan might change.

The Stephane Wattel-trained and Christophe Soumillon-ridden City Light thrilled his connections. Joint-owner John Corbani said: “From the angle of the box we were in, I thought we’d won. If he hadn’t reared in the stalls at the start, it might have been different.”

Bound For Nowhere was headed late on, having drifted left and Wesley Ward said: “He wasn’t meant to be in front (early on) but I guess there wasn’t much pace. I was proud of him. To step up and be in the top three of a race like this at Royal Ascot is fantastic.”