Tactical produces Royal Ascot performance fit for a Queen


London (AFP)

Queen Elizabeth II could be forgiven for jumping out of her chair in celebration at nearby Windsor Castle on Wednesday as her colours were carried to victory by Tactical on the second day of Royal Ascot.

The 94-year-old monarch has had to miss the meeting for the first time since she came to the throne in 1952 because of the ban on spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.

James Doyle delivered the Andrew Balding-trained runner with a perfectly-timed challenge in the suitably named Windsor Castle Stakes to give the Queen her 24th victory at the meeting and her first since 2016.

It brought the queen consolation for missing out earlier in the day when her First Receiver lost out in the dying strides in the Hampton Court Stakes.

"Throughout the conversations the Queen was saying how delighted she is to produce a two-year-old winner at Royal Ascot," her bloodstock adviser John Warren said.

"It is obviously a great shame Her Majesty isn't there to enjoy the buzz of having a runner, but she has studied every bit of it today, watching the races.

"It's the icing on the cake to have a winner for her."

For Doyle it was his second victory of the day -- the 15th of his career at the meeting -- having taken the feature race, the Prince of Wales's Stakes, on Lord North.

"This is what dreams are made of, to ride a Royal Ascot winner for Her Majesty," said Doyle.

"I recall the manic scenes when she won the Gold Cup in 2013 and sadly we don't have that today for obvious reasons."

Balding said the staff back at his stables would be going nuts.

"This is very exciting," said Balding. "I can't imagine what the atmosphere will be like in the yard.

"The Queen is very well-informed and knowledgeable about racing.

"We were expecting big things today and I am so pleased it came off."

- 'The history books' -

Lord North under Doyle produced an electrifying burst of pace to surge from last to first and ease to victory in the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

His trainer John Gosden said gelding, or castrating, Lord North had transformed his character.

"He had to be gelded last year because he was not prepared to play ball, he was tormenting himself.

"Testosterone is the most dangerous drug in the world, and he is a lovely horse to be around now."

Mark Johnston may have sent a depleted team for this Royal Ascot but he picked up the valuable Royal Hunt Cup with Dark Vision.

It was the 60-year-old's 46th winner at the meeting and his first Hunt Cup.

"I am sure in the future being able to say you had a winner at Royal Ascot Behind Closed Doors is going to be a great thing for the history books," said Johnston.

Two trainers experienced their first Royal Ascot winners -- William Knight and Owen Burrows with Sir Busker in the Silver Royal Hunt Cup Handicap and Hukum in the King George V Stakes respectively.

Jim Crowley guided home Hukum for his fourth win of this year's meeting, taking his overall tally to nine.

Burrows -- a former jumps jockey and then assistant for a dozen years to the legendary Michael Stoute -- said he would reflect on whether Hukum was worth running in the Derby.

"This is a great day," said Burrows, a former jumps jockey, of his first winner.

"As a kid and when I was battling around Fontwell and Plumpton 20 years ago (as a jockey), I would never have dreamed I would be here training a Royal Ascot winner for someone like Sheikh Hamdan (Al-Maktoum).

"I am sure we will have a think about (the Derby) but he lacks a bit of experience and I am not sure how he would handle the tricky track that is Epsom."