Friday June 17
Alan has enjoyed 15 Cheltenham Festival winners, including a Champion Hurdle and a Champion Chase, but he conceded that celebrating his first success at Royal Ascot yesterday with Primitivo in the King George V Handicap was “right up there with the best”.
In clocking up this four-timer, Primitivo has already climbed 26lb up the handicap since he ran in his first nursery nine months ago, but he can expect his new mark next Tuesday to be 100-plus after he destroyed some smart performers by three and a quarter lengths under a fine ride from Willy Twiston-Davies, who was also celebrating his first success at the Royal meeting.
Alan, who was runner-up in this race with Salsalino in 2003, said:”I love Royal Ascot and every year when we plan our family holiday for June I remind my wife that we need to be back in time for this meeting.
“The only time I have missed it in 30 years is when they ran it at York, and standing in that coveted winner’s enclosure meant so much to me. I never thought it would happen and driving home last night I still could not believe that the dream had become reality.
“Primitivo surprised me when he won so well at Newbury in May and six days later he defied a penalty in similarly impressive fashion at Sandown. That sealed it for the owners (Messrs Farrell, Field, Mellor and Cognet) – we were off to Royal Ascot.
“Primitivo has won on fast ground and in the soft, but I think he prefers a bit of dig so I was pleased to see the rain. I knew the extra distance would not be a problem as the mother (Dolcetto) won two or three for me, and Primitivo is bred to stay.
“The owners have repeatedly resisted some very big offers – I thought that they were mad, but they had set their hearts on a trip to Royal Ascot and we have all enjoyed the most magical day, I doubt they’d ever sell now, and, hopefully, we can keep him and celebrate another special day or two along the way.”
Alan was lavish in his praise of Twiston Davies – “I go back a long way with the family and Willy is a great lad and rides out every week” – and the jockey ‘returned serve’ as he dismounted.
Twston-Davies, delighted to be able to experience the same sort of thrill that his brother Sam has at Cheltenham, said:”I can’t thank Alan enough, He is the most loyal trainer going, I ride there every Tuesday and people like him are the reason you get on in this world, and without Alan’s support I could never have dreamed of riding a winner at Royal Ascot.”
The only worry that Twiston-Davies had was when Primitivo began to hang left in the final furlong, but Willie added:”He did that at Sandown, and he sometimes dosses in front, sticks his ears forward and plays around. I saw Ryan Moore out of the corner of my eye on the runner-up, changed my stick hand, and Primitivo went again.
“Being honest, I never thought he would pick up as well as he did, He was always behind the bridle, but I gave him a squeeze and he produced the most amazing turn of foot.
“I didn’t think he stayed last year, but maybe he was still weak because he has really improved this season. I went into the race thinking that he might develop into a Listed horse, but now I am thinking Group races. The skies the limit, and I’m just gobsmacked that I’m a part of the success story.”
Alan has two runners on the final day of Royal Ascot, Grumeti and First Mohican in the Queen Alexandra Stakes. He said:”Grumeti won the Cesarewitch last season, so this race has always been in the back of our minds. He ran well at York last time and seems to be on the way back to form, while we have dispensed with the visor for First Mohican, who has plenty of ability and is actually rated 13lb superior to Grumeti. He needs to recapture his sparkle.”