Landmark success for Spencer as Rajasinghe scorches home
The beaming smile mixed with tears of joy said it all as Richard Spencer was overcome with emotion following his breakthrough Royal Ascot winner with Rajasinghe.
Spencer sent out his first runner just over a year ago and a mix of delight and disbelief was etched on his face in the immediate aftermath of victory.
The all-weather may still be regarded as the Flat turf's poorer cousin in some circles, but it is increasingly a source of high-class winners, with Rajasinghe coming into the race off the back of a debut victory at Newcastle.
The previous two Coventry winners, Buratino and Caravaggio, had both won on the all-weather prior to their Ascot victories, and Rajasinghe continued that trend.
There was no fluke about the colt's four-length victory at Newcastle, and nor was there about his head success under Stevie Donohoe, with the pair setting a new course record of 1min 12.39sec.
"It's amazing, from day one we've loved him," Spencer said. "He's done everything we've asked from him and leading up to Newcastle we knew there'd be improvement to come. He's taken that step forward and the staff are amazing."
Despite still being the right side of 30, Spencer already has a lengthy racing education behind him, having started out at Peter Bowen's yard as a 16-year-old before learning from Barry Hills as a pupil assistant. He then continued at Faringdon Place when Charlie Hills took over from his father before two years as assistant to Michael Bell.
Based at Albert House Stables in Newmarket, Spencer took over from Dave Morris, working for Rebel Racing boss Phil Cunningham, and the trainer added: "Phil gave me the opportunity and it's amazing, an absolute dream."
Paddy Power cut the winner to 20-1 (from 66) for next season's 2,000 Guineas and Spencer is confident the son of Choisir will stay at least another furlong.
"There's so much to look forward to, he'll stay seven," Spencer said. "My assistant, Johnny Bailey, has been asking me for the last six weeks to get the Jockey Club to extend the Newmarket gallops as he's a flying machine."
Donohoe has been in the game a considerably longer time than Spencer, but he too was celebrating a first Royal Ascot winner.
Dislocated fingers suffered the previous night did not stop the jockey, and he said: "It's fantastic and a long time coming."
Donohoe had to wait for the judge to confirm his success, and added: "It's relief as he raced the wrong way round and had to do it himself without cover. I thought I'd got there a stride too soon but now I can enjoy it. He's a very tough horse and will stay further. Richard has taken him along really steadily and I'm delighted he's won in the manner he has."
Rajasinghe and Donohoe forced William Haggas to settle for the runner-up position for the second time in as many races with Headway just losing out.
Haggas said: "That was nearly very good. Headway ran a fantastic race and it was a great thrill. He had a hard race and I'm not sure what we'll do next."
Murillo claimed third for Aidan O'Brien, while favourite Brother Bear held every chance but came home fourth after hanging over to the stands rail.
Trainer Jessica Harrington said: "I'm very happy. The race collapsed around Brother Bear and he was left a bit on his own, he had nothing to run with. But he still ran a great race."
Six things you never knew about Richard Spencer
1. Saddled his first runner on the Flat in April last year, when Rebel Lightning finished fourth in a 7½f handicap at Beverley
2. Trained three winners from 13 runners in his first season training over jumps last season. Rajasinghe's win was only his ninth on the Flat
3. Worked for Peter Bowen, Barry Hills, Charlie Hills and Michael Bell before going it alone
4. Rode as an amateur in hunter chases and point-to-points, winning at Ascot aboard Nowurhurlin in 2014 and the Royal Artillery Gold Cup in 2012
5. Broke his back in a fall at Warwick in March 2015
6. Phil Cunningham, boss of Rebel Racing, approached Spencer during his recovery and invited him to take over at Albert House Stables in Newmarket in March 2016