Blue Point proves King of Ascot again with second G1 King’s Stand Stakes victory
Blue Point joined a select group of sprinters to win the G1 King’s Stand Stakes twice with another scintillating display in the five-furlong highlight on day one of Royal Ascot, on Tuesday, 18 June.
The five-year-old Shamardal horse showed his customary early speed from stall one and disputed second towards the far side of the main group of runners down the centre of the course headed by Soldier’s Call, with Battaash and Houtzen racing together on the stands’ side.
All 12 runners converged at the half-way point, with Blue Point quickening strongly to take up the running from Soldier’s Call with nearly a furlong and a half to race.
Battaash laid down a strong challenge entering the final half-furlong, but Blue Point found more and ran on strongly in the closing stages to win impressively by a length and a quarter in a fast 58.53s on good ground, with a further length and a half back to Soldier’s Call.
It was a third G1 victory for the Charlie Appleby-trained sprinter, who also beat Battaash into second in the 2018 King’s Stand Stakes and started the year with three easy victories at Meydan, UAE, headed by an impressive display in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, Godolphin’s founder and driving force, reacted: “That has given me a lot of pleasure. When you win a Group One, you are very happy.
“Blue Point was in Dubai during the winter and the weather there helped him. He came here a stronger horse.
“It is very good to get a winner at Royal Ascot. Everybody wants a horse that is able to run at Royal Ascot.”
William Buick, who won on Blue Point 12 months ago, is currently sidelined following a case of concussion and so James Doyle stepped in for the ride today.
Blue Point has now four races from five starts at Ascot.
Charlie Appleby reported: “During the winter, Blue Point did nothing but impress us with the way he matured both mentally and physically. When William won on the horse on his first start this year he said we’re dealing with a different horse now. In training we could see that.
“Coming into today’s race, I knew he was in the form of his life. Physically he looks the real deal. Two weeks ago James rode the horse in a bit of work and came back saying ‘the ground is a bit loose’ and all the usual excuses you come up with when a gallop doesn’t go quite according to plan, but I hoped the horse would come forward for that.
“Then last Wednesday he rode him again and the horse was electric. James got off him and said, ‘That’s the fastest horse I’ve ridden’, and we saw what he meant today.
“There’s no getting away from it that we were concerned about the rain and the ground – he has good form on slower ground, but not at this level. I stood alongside William during the race and said, ‘What do you think – are we happy?’ and he replied, ‘Yes, watch him, watch him’. We could see James just starting to get going on him, and Battaash was travelling so well and likely to put a killer punch in, but once they locked horns I knew our horse would see it out.
“He’ll probably have a little break now. We know the stiff five furlongs suits him, so the Flying Five [at the Curragh] is a possible. He ran in the [G1] Nunthorpe Stakes last year and he was under the pump from half way, although I’m not saying he won’t go there.
“I would say it’s probably unlikely he would go back for the [G1] July Cup again over six furlongs, but it will be an interesting discussion and one we will have with Sheikh Mohammed. William got off him last year and said the track didn’t suit him – they get running a bit quick, then down into the dip, which is not like the dip in the Rowley Mile, but it’s there and he likes to finish strongly on a stiffer track.
“Stepping up to six furlongs doesn’t worry me because he has won the Al Quoz over six and he has held the track record here over six in the past, but we will think about running plans.
“For His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and the Royal Family to be here is marvellous – the one thing we talk about all winter is Ascot, Ascot, Ascot. Once this meeting finishes on Saturday, we’ll start planning for next year. It’s a team effort and to get the horses here in the condition of their lives is all down to the team behind me, and for which I am very grateful. To get a winner is what it’s all about, and even better on the first day.
“William Buick is here today, he’s in the gym regularly and he’s looking great. With the way things are going, I would expect to see him back by the end of July. Having said that, he pushes himself so hard and if he told me next week he was ready to come back it wouldn’t surprise me. It is William’s call.”
Asked if Australia’s Everest Sprint was on the agenda, Appleby said he doubted it due to the frenetic build-up to the race, which he felt was not suitable for an entire five-year-old.
He said: “Predominantly I take geldings to race in Australia for that reason. Our horses are not mentally adapted to that style of pre-race. It’s hard for colts with horses walking round in front of them for three hours before a race. It’s quite challenging for most colts, and it would be especially so for Blue Point.”
Doyle commented: “It gives me immense satisfaction that I didn’t mess it up because I have ridden Blue Point twice before and it didn’t really work out.
“William gets on so well with him, so we did plenty of homework. Charlie actually told me a hop on Blue Point a couple weeks ago, just to get to know the horse because he can be tricky.
“The race couldn’t have gone much smoother, to be honest. He is a real, tough warrior and I had to do most of the running on my own, which is never easy, but it just shows what a classy sprinter he is.
“That is why Charlie is the great trainer he is. He thinks about all of the little things that on the big day need to come together.
“Blue Point has beaten Battaash each time they have met. I was not really worried about him, I was more worried about the rain coming down. Luckily, it only drizzled and hasn’t really affected the ground for now.
“He was very tough – he was out on his own. Battaash drew alongside me but he was six or seven horse-widths away from me, so was never really in my sights. They have met a few times and Blue Point has always come off best. There is no disputing that.”
Reflecting on William Buick missing the ride, Doyle said: “It is real team effort at Godolphin and I am very grateful that in a situation like this I can pick the reins.
“It is very tough on William, who is here today, and I know how he feels missing big winners because I have been there myself, but I think it softens the blow that is one of his best mates riding the winners and looking after his horses for him while he’s off.”