Crystal Ocean obliges with minimum of fuss in Hardwicke Stakes

Stoute enhances fine record in Group Two contest

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Crystal Ocean provided Sir Michael Stoute with an 11th victory in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

It is 32 years since the master of Freemason Lodged first claimed the prize with Dihistan (1986) and he has since struck gold with the likes of Harbinger (2010), Telescope (2014) and the Queen’s Dartmouth (2016).

Having already won at Sandown and Newbury this season, Crystal Ocean was a red-hot 4-7 favourite to add his name to the roll of honour and odds-on backers will have had few concerns for the duration of the mile-and-a-half Group Two.

Ryan Moore positioned the market leader on the heels of last year’s winner Idaho for much of the way and when he faded out of contention early in the home straight, Crystal Ocean kicked clear for a comprehensive two-and-a-half-length victory.

Red Verdon ran a fine race to fill the runner-up spot at 33-1.

Both Stoute and Moore were enjoying their fourth winner of the meeting.

Crystal Ocean is likely to return to Ascot for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes on July 28.

Stoute – who on Wednesday set a new best for career winners at the showpiece fixture – said: “He’s really continued to progress with his racing. He’s got a lovely temperament and he’s a joy to train.

“It was straightforward. He is so uncomplicated you can do what you like with him. He is a relaxed horse. It is so far, so good.

“We will take him home and look at him for a little while, but I expect that (King George) is likely. We will take it step by step.

“I think we will get brave now. The King George is likely, but we will get home and think about it.”

Red Verdon could be bound for Australia in the autumn.

Trainer Ed Dunlop said: “It was a great run. He’s so consistent, he’s improving and we came here because there wasn’t a huge field and to try to get our rating up a little bit.

“We discussed a while ago that the likely option for this horse is to go to Australia. We will work back from the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup.

“He’ll probably have one more run before we take him to Australia.”

Jockey Seamie Heffernan said of third-placed Cliffs Of Moher: “He’s finished third and there were only five runners. It was his second run this week (finished fourth in Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes). I was happy with him.”

Crystal Ocean obliges with minimum of fuss in Hardwicke Stakes
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