Ireland’s champion National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins saddled his sixth Royal Ascot winner, and his fourth in the Ascot Handicap, when Lagostovegas won the 2018 running of the staying handicap on Day 1 of the meeting.
The six-year-old mare, a 10/1 shot, ridden prominently throughout the two mile and four furlong contest by Andrea Atzeni, quickened up well in the home straight to lead inside the final furlong, keeping on well to score by a length from Karen McLintock’s Dubawi Fifty (6/1) in second.
Three more Mullins-trained runners followed them home: Stratum (10/1) in third, Chelkar (5/1 jt fav) in fourth and his fellow joint-favourite, Whiskey Sour, in fifth.
The winning trainer admitted he had doubts the daughter of Footstepsinthesand would stay the distance:
“She had probably done the fastest work of the five ahead of the race, and that made me doubt whether she would get the trip. It looked a slow gallop and the pace-setter [Dubawi Fifty] finished second, which suggested it wasn’t a great pace, so it played into her hands.”
“After Punchestown we look at which horses could run in France, which ones could go on the Flat and which ones to turn out to grass. The Flat-bred ones are fairly obvious and so we take a chance on whether they will go on the ground. The owners of this mare love their racing and wherever we can find a race for her they will be keen to go.”
Successful jockey Andrea Atzeni, riding his third Royal Ascot winner, said:
“We had a lovely draw in stall 1 and we were always well positioned. Lagostovegas picked up well in the closing stages and I always thought we were going to get there. Mr Mullins said that she did a good bit of work the other morning and just not to get there too soon. She travelled beautifully and won quite cosily. She idled a little bit, but she got the job done which is the main thing.”
Ascot Handicap Result:
1 Lagostovegas (John Donohue) Willie Mullins & Andrea Atzeni 10/1
2 Dubawi Fifty (Paul & Clare Rooney) Karen McLintock & Silvestre de Sousa 6/1
3 Stratum (Tony Bloom) Willie Mullins & Robert Winston 10/1
4 Chelkar (O T I Racing) Willie Mullins & Ryan Moore 5/1 jf
Other 5/1jf Whiskey Sour (5th)
Distances: 1, 1¼, nk
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) 19 Meitheamh 2018