Qemah showed a good turn of foot to land the Coronation StakesPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Qemah takes Coronation as Rouget strikes again
Report: Royal Ascot, Friday
Coronation Stakes (Group 1) 1m, 3yo fillies
JEAN-CLAUDE ROUGET is starting to make the Coronation Stakes his own and one year on from his victory with Ervedya he triumphed again as Qemah gave jockey Gregory Benoist a first Royal Ascot winner.
Under a dashing ride, 6-1 shot Qemah came from well off the pace to take the £226,840 first prize by a length and three-quarters from Nemoralia but, as was the case with The Gurkha on Tuesday, Ryan Moore supporters were left thinking what might have been after Alice Springs flashed home for a fast-finishing third.
Qemah had turned into the home straight similarly far back but Benoist, the retained rider in France to winning owners Al Shaqab Racing, had taken a more prudent approach by racing wide and, unlike Alice Springs, enjoyed a clear run to what turned out to be Coronation glory.
"It's amazing for me, it's like a dream," said Benoist. "I can't speak. There's too much emotion."
Jet Setting downed
On her previous outing Qemah had finished third to stablemate La Cressonniere in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches but this time nothing could stop her.
Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Jet Setting, bought on Monday by the China Horse Club for £1.3 million, attempted to make all the running but midway down the home straight the eventual sixth was in trouble.
By this point Alice Springs, who had been positioned near the rail by Moore, had already struggled to find room and even when angled deeper on the track she found the Jamie Spencer-ridden Ashadihan getting in her way.
She ran on strongly, as did Nemoralia, but Qemah was not for catching and scored for a prolific trainer who had also saddled the Coronation second in 2014.
'It's the best racing in the world'
Rouget said: "For me to do this double in this race, it's a childhood dream, but I hope to get some more wins here because it's the best racing in the world.
"I was very confident after the French Guineas for this race because I prefer her with a turn. She was very nervous in Deauville but today she won easily."
Benoist added: "Before the race, we wanted to take a good position but the pace was a little bit fast for me so I took my time. Today, she had a really good finish and was really relaxed."
Al Shaqab racing manager Harry Herbert, whose boss Sheikh Joaan saw his colours carried to victory by Galileo Gold on the opening day of the meeting, said: "This is unbelievable - a second Group 1!
"She was unlucky in the French Guineas but today. She has settled better and I'm delighted for Sheikh Joaan and Gregory Benoist. It's just another special moment. How spoiling is this?"
Pride in Nemoralia's display
Nemoralia's part-owner Charles Pigram said: "She's run her heart out and I'm so proud of her. We've come second in a Group 1, that's no travesty.
"If that was firm ground today she'd have won but Qemah is a good horse, I can't take that away from her. We've beat a Guineas winner and she beat Minding. She will be amazing on her ground."
Jet Setting's rider Shane Foley said: "She jumped and travelled but just didn't pick up as well as she normally does. Maybe she's coming in season?
"She had a tough race a the Curragh, so maybe it was that, but I don't think it was the ground. She seemed to enjoy it, up to a point."
No going change overnight
Following a dry day on Friday, clerk of the course Chris Stickels confirmed the going remains good to soft on the straight course and good to soft, soft in places on the round course.
"The ground has dried out and remains as described," said Stickels. "We will see what happens tonight. We are forecast for dry conditions but there may be a rogue shower.
"We hope to have a dry night and [Saturday] is forecast to be dry."