Aidan O’Brien, Ryan Moore and Coolmore crowned at Royal Ascot

Merchant Navy helps secure top titles

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It may have started with more of a whimper than a bang, but there was no stopping Flat racing’s most fearsome force of Aidan O’Brien, Ryan Moore and Coolmore dominating events at Royal Ascot once again.

Having drawn a blank on the opening day, the powerhouse operation slowly but surely started to fire in the winners, starting with victory for Kew Gardens in the Queen’s Vase on Wednesday.

One winner soon became three with Magic Wand taking the Ribblesdale and Hunting Horn in the Hampton Court 24 hours later, before a last-gasp victory for Australian import Merchant Navy in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes sealed the trio’s respective top trainer, owner and jockey titles on the final day.

O’Brien, celebrating a ninth leading trainer prize, this time on countback from John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute, said: “We take it one day at a time and one race at a time.

“We had a few winners and a lot of placed horses and a few horses ran disappointing races, but it is tough, competitive racing. I didn’t expect anything else.

“I’m delighted to be here and privileged we were here at the end.”

Asked for highlights, O’Brien said: “I suppose it is hard to get away from the win for Merchant Navy. He is a three-year-old carrying a four-year-old weight.

“He only came just before the Curragh. His coat was changing and he didn’t know if it was winter or summer.

“He was going through a lot of changes himself and in all fairness to him he was healthy enough and sound enough to cope with the changes, and to produce that run was unbelievable.

“When you are in racing you are always grateful to have a winner and you never take anything for granted.

“Really, I’m surprised you win more times than you don’t as there are so many variables you can’t change and the competition is so tough here.

“It is great, the competition, as that is what makes sport great. John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute are great trainers and really we feel privileged that the lads have horses we can come over and compete with.

“That is what makes the whole week unbelievable. The track was immaculate, the facilities and the atmosphere, it is all unbelievable.

“It is a privilege and a pleasure for me and all the lads and everyone that is involved, as it is a big team effort. I think everyone gets a great kick out of it.”

Four winners may have been enough for O’Brien and Coolmore, but for Moore he required a piece of help from loyal ally Stoute to master Frankie Dettori at the top of the jockeys’ standings, which Crystal Ocean duly provided in the Hardwicke Stakes.

Moore, winning the leading rider prize for the eighth time, said: “It was great to end the week with Merchant Navy winning today. It was an important race and he is an important horse.

“He has done well to come over from the other side of world to beat horses from all over the place again. I’m very happy with him and he would be the highlight for me.

“Sir Michael has had a great week with four winners and there have been a couple of good ones. Crystal Ocean is an improving horse and he has got better and better.

“This doesn’t get boring and winning the big race today was important. It was great to reach 50 Royal Ascot winners.”

Having claimed the inaugural leading owner award 12 months ago, connections from Coolmore were more than satisfied with the outcome despite suffering a few disappointments.

Coolmore partner Michael Tabor said: “When you look at the overall performance we hit the crossbar two or three times, but Aidan is still the leading trainer. It has been kind of frustrating, but we can’t complain.

“I suppose Merchant Navy would be the highlight, as when you buy a horse from Australia it is a big outlay and to bring it over is a big risk, sometimes they don’t adapt.”

Aidan O’Brien, Ryan Moore and Coolmore crowned at Royal Ascot
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