French fancy Qemah all class as she claims second royal crown
Qemah, last year's Coronation Stakes heroine, made it two from two at Royal Ascot when proving too strong for her rivals in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes.
The Jean-Claude Rouget-trained filly quickened to the front over a furlong out before holding off Aljazzi by three-quarters of a length, with Usherette, last year's winner, coming home in third after staying on strongly from the back of the field in the closing stages.
Qemah's Royal Ascot preparations appeared to take a hit when she could manage only second in a Group 3 at Lingfield in May, but she proved that below-par effort all wrong with a smooth success.
Rouget, who has endured a testing year with one of his yard's badly affected by a virus, said: "Congratulations to the filly, the jockey and the staff at home.
"We were very happy before the race and I hope she'll run good races for the rest of the season. She'll go to Deauville for the Rothschild next."
Paddy Power make her 7-4 favourite for that Group 1 contest, and she started favourite here too, at 5-2, in the late absence of Laugh Aloud.
Jockey Gregory Benoist, on board in the Coronation 12 months ago, was evidently delighted with his latest Royal Ascot strike.
He said: "She won like she won last year. She was very quiet before this race, while at Lingfield she was very excited. It was good ground and good pace and she was on a good day. We’re very happy to win two times here."
Harry Herbert, racing manager for Qemah's owners Al Shaqab Racing, said: "She has again shown she's a really high-class filly. The race conditions suited her with no penalties for her two Group 1 wins.
"She was too fresh when she ran at Lingfield and the race didn't work out for her at all. But she was spot on today and she looked great in the pre-parade ring. We've plenty of options and the Jacques Le Marois is certainly a race we'll consider."
Of runner-up Aljazzi, trainer Marco Botti said: "I'm delighted. I thought dropping back to a mile would be her best trip. She likes that ground and she tries very hard.
"We might aim for something in the US – maybe the Beverly D Stakes in August. She needs time between races and, having had a hard race today, we'll be in no rush with her.
Usherette, sent off 11-4 second favourite for Andre Fabre, who had earlier won the Jersey, was still last entering the final couple of furlongs but made strong late headway to snatch third under Mickael Barzalona.