King Of Change ran out an authoritative winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
Runner-up to the reopposing Magna Grecia when a 66-1 shot for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in early May, Richard Hannon’s charge had made just one competitive appearance since – making a successful return from over four months off the track in a Listed event at Sandown.
Ridden confidently by Sean Levey, the 12-1 chance travelled strongly in midfield before quickening smartly to grab the lead with over a furlong still to run – and never looked in serious danger of being caught.
French raider The Revenant – bidding for a seventh straight win – did his best to close the gap late on, but King Of Change was ultimately well on top and passed the post a length and a quarter to the good.
Safe Voyage ran a big race to be best of the rest in third, ahead of the front-running Veracious.
Magna Grecia and the well-backed favourite Benbatl both toiled in the testing conditions and finished well beaten.
Hannon said: “I thought he’d run well in the Guineas, but he had a hard race so we put him away – we thought it would be fast ground at Royal Ascot, but we got the first Royal Ascot in 10 years where it rained!
“After missing that we took our time and he came back to win his Listed race well. Sean said he’s the best horse he’s ever ridden, so he must give him some feel.
“You’d love to be part of Royal Ascot, but it was always about next year for him. I’m delighted for everyone.
“He’s got lots of options, but it’s a shorter winter on the back of a win like that.”
He went on: “Some people said I was little petulant not celebrating finishing second in the Guineas. We always thought the world of this horse and second in the Guineas is a great run, but you don’t remember those. Now he’ll be remembered.
“It’s all about next year anyway. We wanted to give him the summer off because he had a hard race there and the ground has been very firm at Ascot.
“We just decided to stick to our plan and run in the Listed race, as he’d only won his novice, then he comes here and wins like that. I thought he’d win or go close. I nearly backed him, but decided not to as that stops trains.
“I don’t think there was any fluke about his Guineas run and there was no fluke there. He’s taken on the Guineas winner there and beaten him.
“I was impressed with The Revenant in Longchamp and impressed with this horse today.
“The Queen Anne will be on the agenda next year.”
Francis-Henri Graffard, trainer of The Revenant, said: “I hate being second. The race here with Bateel (second in Fillies & Mares in 2017), I still can’t digest that. When you come and you have done the job and the horse is in top form, you really hope.
“Second is not a great position to be, but we have to be proud of our horse. He came from far back and he was coming, but he just got beaten. The winner won easily and he was prominent and we had to make a lot of ground.
“We took our time to get through, the horse was coming and I was hoping he was going to get there, but it was too late. We can’t find any excuses and he ran a fantastic race.
“He will stay in training next year as he is a gelding. He is a fantastic horse.”