Neil King arrived at Ascot in hope rather than expectation – but left with more than he bargained for after Princeton Royale claimed victory in the Geobind Handicap Chase.
Having reached his best ever seasonal total following the victory of Little Millie at Uttoxeter on Saturday, 24 hours later the Wiltshire trainer celebrated winner number 36 of the campaign in the two-mile-five-furlong contest.
Making virtually all, his 10-year-old pulled out enough to score by two and a quarter lengths in a course-record time of five minutes 9.28 seconds
King said: “I’m delighted with this horse, particularly because I wanted to go to Stratford yesterday purely to get a run into him.
“I wanted to qualify him for the challenger series final at Haydock, in just under three weeks’ time, and this was the last chance to qualify.
“He just needed to jump a clear round to qualify, and I thought I had left a bit to work on. It is a nice prize to win on a nice track.
Winning jockey Jonjo O’Neill junior has enjoyed a season of firsts, and this was another – his maiden Ascot success.
He added: “It’s been going the right way, touch wood. I was a close third in the Betfair Hurdle here.
“That was my first winner here, and you don’t really forget them.”
The 21-year-old doubled his tally later in the card when getting the Tony Caroll-trained Black Buble (9-2) up in the closing strides to take the Iron Stand Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Legal History gained compensation for his near miss at Newbury last weekend when providing the opening legs of doubles for trainer David Pipe and jockey Tom Scudamore in the Colts & Fillies Club Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
Scudamore said of the 8-1 winner: “He’s done that well. When I first rode him, he left a lot to be desired, but the improvement from Doncaster to Newbury through to today is great.
“Whether two miles three on tacky ground just stretched him at Newbury, I’m not sure – but the winner was tough.
“We dropped back in trip to two miles today, and he is not short of speed.”
The Grade One-winning rider confirmed he will partner Vieux Lion Rouge in the Randox Health Grand National next weekend.
He said: “I ride Vieux Lion Rouge. Ramses De Teillee has had a great season, and (his owners) John (White) and Anne (Underhill) have had a great season with him, and (his jockey) David (Noonan) has done very well.
“Vieux Lion Rouge has been great to me, and I’ve won a Becher Chase and lots of good races on him. He looks good at home.
“When a horse has achieved as much as Vieux Lion Rouge has, it is hard to desert him.”
Rathlin Rose completed the doubles with his own second successive win in the Sky Sports Racing Veterans’ Handicap Chase – getting the better of stablemate Van Gogh Du Granit, and Noonan, by a length and three quarters.
Refelecting on the 4-1 win, Scudamore said: “The ground was always going to be on the quick side, but he is very tough.
“David’s horses are running great. It was a shame it wasn’t a dead-heat.”
Eddiemaurice banished worries about his ability to act on quick ground, atoning for his early exit at Kempton when defeating Caid Du Lin by a head in the First Days Charity Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Trainer John Flint said of the 6-1 winner: “I was a little bit concerned that the ground might be too quick for him.
“They went slow, though, and it allowed us to stay in touch with them. I thought the way the race was run suited him. He jumps so immensely.”
Richard Johnson enjoyed his first winner at the track in 863 days after En Meme Temps rallied tenaciously to take the Your Bet With Ascot Means More Maiden Hurdle by a head.
Johnson said after his victory on the 5-2 shot: “At least I’ve broken that trend. It is always very hard to ride winners here, because it is always good racing here – and you need nice horses.
“Often when Ascot is on in the winter, there are other valuable meetings on as well.”