/ Racing

Royal Diamond, Slade Power and Seal Of Approval score on Ascot undercard

Updated: Saturday, 19 Oct 2013 17:55 | Comments

The progressive Slade Power saw off Jack Dexter after a prolonged battle in the Champions Sprint Stakes
The progressive Slade Power saw off Jack Dexter after a prolonged battle in the Champions Sprint Stakes

Those who believed Johnny Murtagh's career in the saddle was winding down when he took out a licence to train earlier this season were proved wrong once again at Ascot as the evergreen pilot steered his own Royal Diamond to a thrilling victory in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.

Top jockey at Royal Ascot and winner of the King George on Novellist, Murtagh has mastered the Berkshire track this year.

But this victory, in the colours of his main backer Andrew Tinkler, meant more than any other.

Sent off at 20-1 after a lifeless run in the Irish St Leger, Royal Diamond appeared to have plenty to find against the likes of the Gold Cup winner Estimate, owned by the Queen, but she never looked happy on the soft ground.

Harris Tweed appeared set for an all-the-way win after seeing off Eye Of The Storm inside the final furlong but Murtagh conjured a magical run from Royal Diamond to put his head in front where it mattered to pounce by a nose.

An emotional Murtagh said: "I think that this is the best day of my life. I can't thank everybody enough for giving me the horses. I've got wonderful staff, a great wife and lovely kids - God is good.

"It's been an amazing year for me - I really don't know what to say.

"He has been a brilliant horse from day one and I am just privileged to ride so many great horses. It's all about my staff and my team - they are wonderful.

"I knew I'd won as soon as we reached the line. The horse is all heart."

Reflecting on his dual role as jockey and trainer, Murtagh said: "I wouldn't have taken it on if I didn't think I could do it, and do it well. We have a good system at home, and today proves that I'm able to train and ride."

The stewards took a dim view, however, and handed Murtagh a seven-day ban for misuse of the whip.

Billy Lee, on Eye Of The Storm in third, was handed nine days and Pat Smullen, the rider of the unplaced Pale Mimosa, was suspended seven days for the same offence.

Slade Power held off Jack Dexter in an exciting finish to the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.

Trainer Eddie Lynam, who won the King's Stand Stakes with Sole Power at Royal Ascot in June, has huge strength in depth in the sprinting division and also saddled the third home, Viztoria.

The testing conditions were in Slade Power's favour here as the 7-1 chance was always prominent down the centre of the track under Wayne Lordan.

He ended up drifting towards the rail when Jack Dexter challenged, but still seized the day by a neck.

Viztoria was another three and a quarter lengths behind the determined winner.

Lynam said: "He wants quicker ground ideally but does go on anything.

"We like getting on planes and if we get the invite to Hong Kong we could go.

"Sole Power was a bit peeved that he wasn't coming today but he couldn't run on this ground. At least next season we will have Bill and Ben for all the big sprints.

"The filly is only three and it was a very good run, particularly as six furlongs is a little sharp for her."

Seal Of Approval turned the Qipco British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes into a procession.

Stepping up massively in class, the James Fanshawe-trained filly (16-1) relished the testing conditions under George Baker, who was deputising for the injured Hayley Turner.

Turner suffered a nasty fall from Seal Of Approval in the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster and the incident finished her season early.

Johnny Murtagh rode his own Belle De Crecy into second, but was some four lengths adrift.

The Oaks winner Talent travelled well into the straight but failed to quicken up and stayed on for third.

Baker, was was claiming his first Group One, said: "Once I got a bit of daylight, she picked up nicely. I almost got there too soon. I feel sorry for Hayley Turner, who is injured - it's her ride."

Fanshawe said: "She showed real resilience as a lot of horses wouldn't have gone through those gaps after what happened at Doncaster."

The Lewis Walsh-ridden Breton Rock (12-1) later stole the show in the Qipco Future Stars Apprentice Handicap.

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