Circus Maximus (10/1) became the first horse since Dawn Approach (2013) to run in the 12-furlong Investec Derby before winning the £538,750 G1 St James’s Palace Stakes over a mile.
Supplemented at a cost of £45,000, Circus Maximus, trained by Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore, held on gamely in the closing stages of the mile contest to score by a neck, denying the fast-finishing King Of Comedy (4/1), trained by John Gosden, in second.
Too Darn Hot, the 2/1 favourite and also trained by Gosden, was a further three-quarters of a length back in third.
Circus Maximus was a creditable sixth in the 12-furlong Investec Derby at Epsom Downs on June 1, but the drop back to a mile and the addition of blinkers proved the right combination this afternoon.
O’Brien was registering his 67th winner at the Royal Meeting and a 30.62/1 double today following Arizona’s win in the G2 Coventry Stakes.
This was also the master of Ballydoyle’s eighth win in the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes and first since Gleneagles in 2015.
O’Brien said: “Maria (Niarchos-Gouaze), Derrick Smith, John Magnier and Michael Tabor [owners] all decided at 11.45am at the six-day stage that they were going to supplement Circus Maximus for this race and we just ran with it.
“It is hard to believe, but we are just privileged to be a small part of it.
“It is a big challenge for the horse to drop back down in trip. That’s why we put the blinkers on him as he didn’t have much time to learn how to race back at a mile, so that helped him.
“We were worried about the pace of the race for Circus Maximus back over a mile having raced over a mile and a half, so we are delighted really.”
BLUE IS ON POINT FOR GODOLPHIN
Godolphin’s Blue Point became the 12th dual winner of the £500,000 G1 King’s Stand Stakes with a gutsy display in the five-furlong contest.
Trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by James Doyle, 5/2 shot Blue Point was always prominent and ran on strongly to deny old adversary Battaash (2/1 favourite), trained by Charlie Hills, by a length and a quarter.
Blue Point has now won four of his five starts at Ascot and remains unbeaten this year, having won all three of his races in Meydan during the winter.
A delighted Doyle, recording his 11th victory at Royal Ascot, said: “It gives me immense satisfaction that I didn’t mess it up because I have ridden Blue Point twice before and it didn’t really work out.
“William [Buick] gets on so well with him, so we did plenty of homework. Charlie actually told me a hop on Blue Point a couple weeks ago, just to get to know him because he is tricky.
“The race couldn’t have gone much smoother, to be honest. He is a real, tough warrior and I had to do most of the running on my own, which is never easy, but it just shows what a classy sprinter he is.
“That is why Charlie is the great trainer he is. He thinks about all of the little things that on the big day need to come together.
“Blue Point has beaten Battaash each time they have met. I was not really worried about him, I was more worried about the rain coming down. Luckily, it only drizzled and hasn’t really effected the ground for now.
“He was very tough – he was out on his own. Battaash drew alongside me but he was six or seven horse-widths away from me, so was never really in my sights. They have met a few times and Blue Point has always come off best. There is no disputing that.”
Reflecting on William Buick missing the ride, due to an enforced lay-off from concussion, Doyle continued: “It is real team effort and I am very grateful that in a situation like this I can pick the reins. It is very tough on William, who is here today, and I know how he feels missing big winners because I have been there myself, but I think it softens the blow that is one of his best mates riding the winners and looking after his horses for him while he’s off.”
BATTAASH HAS TO SETTLE FOR SECOND AGAIN
Battaash finished second to Blue Point in the G1 £500,000 King’s Stand Stakes over five furlongs for the second consecutive year. The 2/1 favourite was beaten a length and a quarter – half a length less than in 2018.
The Dark Angel five-year-old was ridden by Jim Crowley and trained by Charles Hills.
Hills said: “He probably just got a little bit outstayed again today, really. It’s got to have tested his stamina a bit; he was drawn wide and unfortunately the horse we thought we’d follow early on into the race slipped coming out of the stalls, and we got a bit detached from the race, maybe. He’s run a really good race, though.”