The Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup might not be a hit with racing’s purists but the Ascot crowds were again treated to a thrilling afternoon on Saturday after the jockeys’ team competition went right down to the wire.
The Rest of the World trio captained by champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa eventually emerged on top with 68 points gained over the six races, narrowly ahead of Europe with 65.
A famous winner for Hayley Turner on her mini-comeback helped last year’s winners the Girls team to a total of 54, with the Great Britain and Ireland side just a point behind on 53.
It was South African rider Gavin Lerena who notably impressed though, steering the Amanda Perrett-trained 25-1 shot Arch Villain in the Shergar Cup Stayers, before completing a double on Richard Hannon’s Danehill Kodiac (10-1) in the Classic.
“It has been a fantastic day. It is a dream come true,” said Lerena. “We are here for another week. I am hoping that I might get a couple of rides – that is why we are hanging around – and it would be fantastic if I could maybe get a ride at Newmarket.”
Thierry Jarnet also claimed two winners with Ken Condon’s Irish raider In Salutem (9-2 favourite) winning the Dash and Kadrizzi coming home in front in the concluding Sprint, securing him the title of leading rider.
However, perhaps the most popular winner of the day was that of Turner, who punched the air in jubilation as Early Morning (6-1) came home in front in the Shergar Cup Mile.
“It’s so nice to do it here, it’s so special and I am thrilled,” said Turner. “I think my celebrations showed how much it meant to me.”
At Haydock, Royal Artillery (10-1) repaid the faith of trainer John Gosden with a battling display to hold off Scottish by a length and a quarter in the Betfred Rose Of Lancaster Stake
Winning rider Colm O’Donoghue said: “He’s a lovely progressive horse. Mr Gosden has always liked him. He’s a big, scopey horse and will get better with time.
“He’s come back well from his last race at Ascot and will step up to another level now.”
Group Three honours were also on offer at Newmarket with Nations Alexander (4-1) making every yard in the German-Thoroughbred.com Sweet Solera Stakes.
Successful trainer Richard Hannon said: “We will supplement her for the Moyglare. The last grey filly I supplemented for the Moyglare went and won the Guineas (Sky Lantern).”
Sunday was all about Group Ones and it was Caravaggio who stole the headlines in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh as the red-hot 1-8 favourite.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “He’s a very good horse and everything went 100 per cent. In his last piece of work he hit a top speed of 45 miles per hour - no horse in Ballydoyle has ever been able to do that.”
A clash with brilliant Queen Mary winner Lady Aurelia is now on the cards in the Prix Morny at Deauville on August 21.
In France, Signs Of Blessing booked his ticket to Ascot on Champions Day in winning the Prix Maurice de Gheest for Francois Rohaut, but it was frustration in the German Oaks for Hugo Palmer and Frankie Dettori as Architecture was again denied in a Classic.