by David Lawrence
17:00 Ascot Sat 18 June
Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap (Class 2) (3YO plus)
Winner £31,155 - 16 ran
Prince Philip became the Duke of Edinburgh on the morning of 20 November 1947. That afternoon he married Princess Elizabeth, heir to the British crown. Since February 1952, when the Princess became Queen Elizabeth II on the death of her father King George VI, the Duke, who was born into Greek royalty but became a citizen of the UK before his wedding, has been at the heart of the Royal family’s enduring success. This year’s royal wedding underlined their huge popularity.
The Ascot race that bears the Duke of Edinburgh’s name was initially run in 1999, but it has firm roots in a previous event called the Bessborough Stakes. The Bessborough originates from 1914, when it was a five-furlong contest for two-year-olds. However, it has gradually evolved and now, in its present guise, it is a mile-and-a-half handicap open to runners aged three years and upwards.
Somewhat appropriately, given his aristocratic bearing and a more-than-passing resemblance to the Duke of Edinburgh himself, John Dunlop was among the more successful trainers during the latter part of the 20th century. He landed the Bessborough with Billion (1978), Stratford Ponds (1989) and Son Of Sharp Shot (1995) and has had several decent cracks at the event since its change of title.
Sir Michael Stoute’s stable has been the most successful trainer since the name switch, though, as he has notched three wins, thanks to Blueprint (1999), Notable Guest (2005) and Sugar Ray (2008). Mark Johnston, with two victories since the turn of the millennium, is Stoute’s closest pursuer.
- The last ten Duke of Edinburgh Stakes favourite have been beaten.
- Seven of its 12 winners, from 1999 to 2010, have been four-year-olds.
- Katiykha (2000), trained by John Oxx, is the only Irish raider to have scored.