Alpha Centauri provided Jessica Harrington with a first Royal Ascot success after a brilliant victory in the Coronation Stakes.
Harrington, 71, has won many of jump racing’s biggest prizes – including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Queen Mother Champion Chase – but was still seeking a first triumph at the showpiece fixture of the Flat season.
Alpha Centauri brought strong claims to the table after claiming Classic glory in last month’s Irish 1,000 Guineas and was the 11-4 favourite to follow up in the hands of Colm O’Donoghue.
Veracious and Aim Of Artemis led the field into the home straight, but Alpha Centauri soon loomed up ominously.
Once given her head, the Irish challenger bounded clear for a hugely impressive six-length verdict in a course-record time, with Threading coming through to beat Veracious to the runner-up spot.
Richard Hannon’s shock Newmarket Guineas heroine Billesdon Brook was a creditable fourth, but Teppal, winner of the French Guineas for David Simcock, finished down the field.
Harrington said: “She was absolutely amazing. I thought when Colm turned in ‘jeepers, he’s gone very soon’, but the further he went the further he was going away. I couldn’t believe it.
“She’s a very big filly and on soft ground, she physically can’t get her feet out of it. She just floats on that top of the ground.
“I have a lot of people behind me and a lot of very nice owners who give me nice horses.
“I’ve had Ascot winners, but I’ve never had a Royal Ascot winner and it’s absolutely fantastic.”
Harrington added: “I got very wound up. I was very nervous today. I know she’s very good.
“It was nice going into the Irish Guineas very much under the radar. Today was different. She was favourite and we were there to be shot at.
“She has got lots of entries.”
Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family, said: “We were nervous going into the race, not quite knowing where we stood in the links with the form, but we found out today.
“I’ll have to talk to Jessie and to the owners, but there is a race in Deauville in the middle of August, the Jacques le Marois, which the family sponsors.
“We might have to consider that.”
Threading’s trainer, Mark Johnston, said: “The race wasn’t run as we expected as we didn’t think there would be a lot of pace on and she was struggling to get in touch early on, so she has come from quite a long way back.
“She has run right up to form and she had two Guineas winners behind and the winner was exceptional. It was an exceptional pace and an exceptional time.
“We’ve just got try find a Group One without the winner in it, but a rematch will be on the cards as you can’t run away from one horse.
“I suppose we will swerve the Falmouth Stakes (at Newmarket), but I don’t know. I never pigeon-hole horses on one or two runs.”
Connections of the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Veracious were delighted with her performance on what was her first outing since winning a Newmarket maiden last October.
Chris Richardson, managing director for owner-breeders Cheveley Park Stud, said: “I’m thrilled. It showed she deserved to be second-favourite for the Guineas.
“She is going to benefit going a bit further. I think Sir Michael and his team have done a fantastic job to get her here.
“We were beaten soundly by a very impressive winner and she was a little gassy.
“Frankie (Dettori) was very happy and he said she will come on a lot.”
Hannon said of Billesdon Brook: “She didn’t really go ‘whoosh’ today like she did in the Guineas.
“The winner has won very well. Our filly made ground all the way to the line without ever looking dangerous.
“I’m very proud of her. She has won a Guineas. We will get her back and we might go a mile and a quarter and see where we go from here.
“I’m not going to deny I’m a little disappointed, but she has won a Guineas and she has been very good to me.”