Royal Ascot came back with a bang and Aidan O’Brien revelled in his slugger Circus Maximus delivering a knockout blow to Frankie Dettori in the Queen Anne Stakes, writes Tom Harle.
Despite the empty stands and a lack of a certain monarch peering through her binoculars, the week’s first Group 1 was the Royal meeting at its irresistible best.
O’Brien’s raider Circus Maximus, ridden by Ryan Moore, reeled in Dettori’s Terebellum in a photo finish for a third Group 1 triumph and a second at Ascot.
“We were delighted with that performance,” said O’Brien.
“Circus Maximus is very tough, he travels with a lot of speed, then quickens and then toughs it out.
“It was unbelievable, really. Ryan gave him an unbelievable ride and we are delighted.
“I think he has probably been a bit underestimated. He travels very strongly and then loves getting eyeballed.
“Like a fighter, if you don’t get his blood up, he doesn’t really bother. The pace of the mile races allows him to get his blood up.
“I would say the Sussex Stakes is the race for him. He is very comfortable racing around a bend.”
Circus Maximus dropped back to a mile to land the St James’s Palace Stakes last year in some similarly dramatic circumstances and the colt now has a claim to being one of Europe’s top milers.
Mark Johnston’s Marie Diamond travelled well and set the pace but Moore and Dettori soon rode the rest of the field to sleep.
Circus Maximus got steamed up in the parade ring and Moore turned up the heat on Dettori down the stretch to win on the nod.
It was a fine start for O’Brien, totting up a 71st Ascot winner, with Coolmore’s super sire Galileo registering an incredible 86th Group 1 success.
John Gosden’s Terebellum couldn’t back up her Group 2 Dahlai Stakes victory at Newmarket ten days ago but remains lightly raced and will move on.
Gosden said: “She ran a great race. They didn’t go any pace which probably played against her as she gets a mile and a quarter.
“She hit the front and the other one just came back on the run to the line under a rousing ride from Ryan.”