Royal celebrations as Dartmouth wins thriller for Queen
They were fanned out across the track like the finish to a five-furlong sprint, but there was no disguising that staying power and bravery prevailed as Dartmouth provided the Queen with a famous success in the Betway Yorkshire Cup.
Five challengers were still in there fighting in the final furlong, but under an astute Ryan Moore ride on the stands' side rail, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old snatched victory from Simple Verse by a neck, with the same distance back to High Jinx in third.
Resolution and stamina were the key attributes on ground described as soft, good to soft in places and, while Dartmouth proved his Cup credentials, connections ruled out going for the Gold Cup over 2m4f at Royal Ascot with a defence of his Hardwicke Stakes crown, for which he was cut to 8-1 (from 12) by Betfair Sportsbook, the preferred option.
John Warren, racing manager to the Queen, said: "I suspect Sir Michael will be looking at the Hardwicke again, as that's his sort of race.
"I'd be very surprised if that wasn't the main objective as it's always fun for the Queen to have a runner at Ascot.
"He's an exceptionally brave and tough horse, who always tries and never lets himself down. You can depend on him even with the adverse conditions and going slightly up in trip and he's proved he can pull out all the stops.
'An absolute professional'
"I didn't think he was going to get there because they were so wide. Ryan had this plan to come this side, so he knew what he was doing, but I don't think he anticipated they were going to be so far away width-wise. It was a remarkable ride, he's an absolute professional."
Moore, celebrating a fourth victory in the race, said: "We were a long way apart but he always gives his best and is very tough. He felt very easy the whole way, he's got mile-and-a-half pace, and was just doing a little too much in stages."
Trainers are creatures of habit and Stoute's previous three winners of the race in the last decade – Snow Sky, Gospel Choir and Ask – all subsequently went back to a mile and a half.
However, that is not to say Dartmouth, making a first start since finishing second to Erupt in the Grade 1 Canadian International last October, will be kept away from long distances later in the season.
"I'd say after Ascot we might try to find out if he's a proper Cup horse," added Warren. "We've always regarded him as an international traveller, who is nearly a Group 1 horse, but abroad sometimes that's enough to win at the highest level."
'It was a terrific run'
Ralph Beckett, trainer of 2015 St Leger heroine Simple Verse, was phlegmatic in defeat, his enthusiasm for the Gold Cup matched by the bookmakers, who cut the mare to as low as 8-1 while others stayed at 14-1. He is a best-priced 9-1 with Hills.
"It was a terrific run," he said. "She's run as well as I hoped, we just got beat. She'll go to Ascot for the Gold Cup, I'd say. I've no doubt she'll stay."
The Tim Easterby-trained High Jinx, whose previous start had come 747 days earlier for James Fanshawe, led for much of the race and fought on gamely once headed, although rider David Allan received a four-day ban (June 5-8) for using his whip above the permitted level.
"He's run a cracker and I'm delighted," said Easterby. "It was a super run. We could go to Ascot or France. We thought about sending him over jumps but changed our mind."