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Dartouth1-360

Dartmouth (right) leaned into Highland Reel but kept the Hardwicke

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)  

Dartmouth delivers a royal win on final day

Report: Royal Ascot, Saturday

Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2) 1m4f, 4yo+

DARTMOUTH handed the Queen her first Royal Ascot victory since Estimate's famous Gold Cup win of 2013.

The final horse to carry the royal colours at this year's meeting, Dartmouth stayed strongly to the line and had to dig deep to deny Highland Reel by a head in a thrilling battle and land odds of 10-1.

The runner-up's rider, Seamie Heffernan, will wonder what might have been had be not lost his whip late on aboard the 6-1 shot.

Almodovar, sent off at 9-1, put in a bold bid from the front under George Baker and deservedly held on for third.

The victory was not without some drama as the stewards held an inquiry into possible interference between the winner and Highland Reel, with Dartmouth having hung slightly to his right during the closing stages.

Familiar territory for Peslier

Olivier Peslier, deputising for Ryan Moore who chose to partner the unplaced favourite Exosphere over Dartmouth and Highland Reel, could have been forgiven for feeling a strong sense of deja-vu on Saturday.

When he stepped in to win aboard the son of Dubawi at Goodwood last year, he also had to survive a stewards inquiry that resulted in him being found to have breached careless riding rules.

A popular horse

The win was Sir Michael Stoute's 75th overall at Royal Ascot, equalling the record of the great Sir Henry Cecil, while it was also an amazing tenth victory in the Hardwicke Stakes and his fourth for the Queen.

"Olivier corrected him very, very quickly and it didn't affect the result," Stoute said of the incident that triggered the enquiry.

"It's a great mark to reach [75 winners] but I hope it doesn't stop there! He's a lovely, quality horse and everybody in the yard is very fond of him."

'The Queen got such a thrill'

The Queen's bloodstock advisor, John Warren, said of the success: "It's been a long wait with a few little ups and downs but he's a very smart horse.

"He's never been in this company before so we weren't sure what to expect but he did win his last two Group races.

"Michael is such a master at training horses just to their peak and it means a lot to the Queen. Michael had it firmly in mind that this would be the objective and he's such a genuine horse.

"The Queen got such a thrill watching him stick his neck out."

 
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