Declaration Of War and Joseph O'Brien winning the Queen Anne StakesPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
First blood goes to Declaration Of War
Report: Royal Ascot, Tuesday
Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) 1m, 4yo+
DECLARATION OF WAR showed just why connections have held him in such high regard as he took the opening race at Royal Ascot, the Queen Anne Stakes, as the favourite Animal Kingdom proved to be a bitter disappointment.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained four-year-old was backed from an opening show of 10-1 into 15-2 to make amends for his poor showing in the Lockinge Stakes last time out and despite Joseph O'Brien's mount being short of room as he started to make his challenge, he still got into the clear in enough time to win by three-quarters of a length from Aljamaaheer with Gregorian a further half-length back in third.
There was little pace breaking from the stalls and in scenes reminiscent of Dawn Approach in the Derby, the warm favourite was pulling hard early on under rider Johnny Velazquez. His supporters and his connections, who had taken the brave decision to bring him to Royal Ascot, were aware of their fate more than two furlongs home and he dropped away tamely to finish 11th of 13.
Nothing though should be taken away from Declaration Of War, who was registering a first win at the highest level after breaking clear under O'Brien junior.
The winning rider said: "We were a bit disappointed after Newbury but we had him at 100 per cent today.
"I was going very well, it got a little bit tight but he quickened up and idled when I got there. He's a very good horse. it's nice to start off on a good foot."
Aidan O'Brien, who was winning this race for the third time and notching a 38th Royal Ascot win at the same time, added: "He had an easy win at Leopardstown first time then he wasn't ready for the Lockinge and has made great progress since. He has a lot of speed, we waited as long as we could.
"It doesn't get any better than this, it's the Olympics of Flat racing."
Animal Kingdom had been attempting to add a Royal Ascot win to triumphs in the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup but there was to be no final high in a racing career which has seen the five-year-old earn more than £5million in win and place prize-money.
His British-born trainer Graham Motion said: "It's taken the wind out of our sails, I'm disappointed, who wouldn't be. Johnny [Velazquez] said he had no punch at the half mile. I was worried about the unknowns with him and unfortunately it's caught up with him."