Belmont hero Tiz The Law and the mighty Stradivarius were the biggest stars as top-quality racing finally surged into life in Europe and North America last week after months of relatively little excitement because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The action may have been behind closed doors, but it was spectacular nonetheless. Stradivarius was a virtuoso ten-length winner as he became only the third horse to win three Gold Cups in the 200-plus-year history of Royal Ascot’s most famous race, and Tiz The Law was utterly dominant as he took what for one year only is the first U.S. Classic of the season (and a shortened version at that) by 3¾ lengths for his handler, Barclay ‘Funny Cide’ Tagg.
Don’t let doubts over the credibility of the 2020 Triple Crown mask the fact that this is a serious racehorse, who, along with Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner Contrail, is one of two outstanding colts to have emerged worldwide already this year.
When it comes to winning distances, though, nothing around lately can compare with the Bob Baffert filly Gamine, who looked a potential champion taking the G1 Longines Acorn Stakes at Belmont by a monstrous 18½ lengths.
Baffert, however, is not a notable climber in the updated edition of the TRC Global Rankings, which is awash with dramatic moves from leading individuals, chief among them:
John Gosden, trainer
Even by his normal lofty standards, this was a week like no other for the current British champion. He was world #3 before the first race at Royal Ascot last Tuesday. By Saturday night, his TRC Performance Index had swollen by an incredible ten points and he was back at world #1, casting aside the previous 1-2, Charlie Appleby and Chad Brown, with a torrent of senior Group wins from runners - Stradivarius aside - few outside Britain will have heard of.
How many people will have been aware of the talents of Lord North or Palace Pier, both winners of frontline G1s at the meeting? Or Frankly Darling, or Fanny Logan, or Nazeef, all now successful in prestigious Royal Ascot G2s?
Frankie Dettori, jockey
Wherever Gosden goes, Dettori is always somewhere around, and last week was a glorious example. Dettori didn’t actually improve his position in the TRC jockeys’ standings - difficult if you’re already world #1 - but he extended his lead at the top of the pile to 25 points thanks to an 11-point gain week-on-week.
The Italian was aboard Stradivarius, Palace Pier, Frankly Darling and Fanny Logan for Gosden, as well as G1 scorer Alpine Star for Jessica Harrington and juvenile G2 winner Campanelle for Wesley Ward.
It was all very reminiscent of the same festival 12 months ago, which Dettori dominated with a magnificent seven, including Stradivarius of course.
Royal Ascot was a particularly happy hunting ground for a number of other top UK-based riders, notably Sheikh Hamdan’s retained jockey Jim Crowley (+9pts, #30 from #35), Adam Kirby (+11pts, #146 from #202) and the week’s top climber, Kevin Stott, (12pts, #174 from #271), who landed his first G1 on Hello Youmain in the Diamond Jubilee and took the famous Wokingham Handicap (not a Group race) just 35 minutes later on Hey Jonesey for the same trainer, Kevin Ryan.
Hamdan Al Maktoum, owner
Sheikh Hamdan is the week’s most significant mover among owners, his five-point gain - courtesy of three wins, including G1 King’s Stand Stakes scorer Battaash - bringing the world #3 within five points of second-placed Coolmore Partners.
Godolphin, who are still way out in front, endured a torrid time at the meeting, never once visiting the winner’s circle.
Jessica Harrington, trainer
The impressive Mrs H was expected to land G1 glory a week earlier with hot favourite Albigna in the Irish 1000 Guineas, but that filly finished a lacklustre sixth. Harrington wasn’t finished though. Lo and behold, she produced another star filly at Ascot to clinch said top-level success.
With a runaway victory in the Coronation Stakes, Alpine Star looked to be in the same sort of league as her fabulous half-sister Alpha Centauri, who won the same race during a four-G1-winning run in 2019.
Harrington didn’t stop there either. A shade over 24 hours later, she was at Leopardstown saddling another quality filly, One Voice, to win the G3 Blue Wind Stakes.
Those two weekend Group-race wins bring a nine-point elevation in Harrington’s TRC performance index, meaning she has broken into the world top 50 (climbing 15 places to #49). She is the highest-ranked female trainer in the Northern Hemisphere, and third in the world behind Aussies Gai Waterhouse (#22 alongside training partner Adrian Bott) and Alana Williams (#23 with husband and training partner Grant).
American Pharoah, sire
The 2015 Triple Crown hero, now a second-season sire, had excellent results in three countries to rise 64 places to #119. His six-point gain came courtesy of a G3 winner in Tokyo, a G3 winner at Belmont and a G3 runner-up at Royal Ascot.