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Royal Ascot: Day 1

Royal Ascot opened today with a gritty win for Haradasun in the Queen Anne Stakes; although passed by two horses, he battled back at the end to claim victory. Darjina and Finsceal Beo were second and third (although both encountered traffic trouble) — and both Johnny Murtagh and Kevin Manning picked up bans for excessive whipping (aboard Haradasun) and careless riding (on Finsceal Beo), so the race was not entirely without controversy. While both fillies will likely point toward the Falmouth Stakes in July, it would seem that Coolmore has decided that Haradasun will begin his new career as soon as possible (one presumes the $40 million they paid for a 50% share, making him the most expensive racehorse in Australian history, may have a little something to do with that).

Henrythenavigator (pictured, with Johnny Murtagh) also performed as expected, even setting a new track record in the process, in the St James’s Palace Stakes — so it cannot be said that Aiden O’Brien is having a bad day, even if he only got to send Haradasun out twice before his retirement. Raven’s Pass (who is being campaigned toward the Breeders’ Cup Mile) finished second and Twice Over managed third. O’Brien further suggested that Henrythenavigator is the ‘best miler he’s ever had‘ — so much for George Washington!

Takeover Target ran a game race in the King’s Stand Stakes but could not catch the winner — Spanish entry Equiano, who was sent off as a 22-1 long shot (although I would hasten to point out that he was mentioned here yesterday). Filly Fleeting Spirit, the favorite, managed to get up for third. Takeover Target will get one more shot at Royal Ascot glory on Saturday — he’ll try to add the Golden Jubilee Stakes to his impressive resume. It will be no easy task, however — Kiwi mare Seachange, who will be the first New Zealand-bred and trained horse to run at Royal Ascot, may be a longshot, but she was tough in Dubai and could be a factor. Fleeting Spirit is entered as well, and Sakhee’s Secret looks tough. Former US sprinter Diabolical is also entered. Even if he opts to skip the Golden Jubilee, it seems that we may get to see more of Takeover Target later in the year back in Australia – and possibly next year at age 10.

Art Connoisseur remained unbeaten in the Coventry Stakes, and Missoula won the Ascot Cup.

Tomorrow’s highlights include the Prince of Wales’s Stakes; Duke of Marmalade, Literato, Sixties Icon and Ask seem like the ones to watch.

Yeats could make history on Thursday if he wins his third Ascot Gold Cup in a row…check back tomorrow for more on his effort and the rest of the day’s action from Royal Ascot.

A small postscript: if you’re looking to get Curlin at a price, you can 16-1 on him in the Arc — the LA Times writes that the Breeders’ Cup is not even on the table

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