Scarlet Dragon weaves his way to Royal Ascot victory
What an amazing Royal Ascot Alan is enjoying. Two winners and a second from just three runners for Barbury so far, with Who Dares Wins, favourite for today’s Queen Alexandra Stakes which brings down the curtain on the week, still to come.
They say that the best surprises are the big ones, and the 33-1 success of Scarlet Dragon in Friday’s Duke of Edinburgh Handicap left most in the yard gobsmacked but absolutely delighted.
Alan has always thought the world of Hollie Doyle – “she is so strong and her confidence is sky-high” – so doubtless he gatecrashed the stable’s marquee party being hosted by his wife Rachel to cheer home Scarlet Dragon in the race many of us still know as the Bessborough.
Hollie achieved history last year when clocking up the highest number of winners for a female jockey in a calendar year – 116.
And now she beat boyfriend and weighing room colleague Tom Marquand to the punch by celebrating a first Royal Ascot winner – and on one of her favourite horses.
The versatile Scarlet Dragon, held up to get the stiff mile and a half, was still only sixth at the furlong-pole and in an uncompromising position, but Hollie bobbed and weaved her way through the gaps and got on top in the last 100 yards to win by half a length.
It was Scarlet Dragon’s first win on the Flat for three years, and, explaining afterwards, why she has such a soft spot for the seven-year-old, Hollie said:”I first got to sit on Scarlet Dragon when I was still claiming, and he was so strong that I could barely hold him.
“I told myself then that I had to work hard to get myself stronger, so I owe him a lot and I won the Old Rowley Cup on him and had to sit and suffer that day. But he such a strong traveller and if you can find the splits he has the gaps to go through them.
“Hayley Turner has been here and done it, and so often I have walked into Ascot at the Royal meeting and wondered what it must feel like to ride a winner here. Thanks to Scarlet Dragon, I now know that feeling, and Hayley has shown that the fairer sex can also ride G1 winners, so that has to be the aim.
“I know my riding has improved as I get opportunities to ride better horses, but you never stop learning at this game and I realise I still have a long way to go.”
Scarlet Dragon is a syndicate horse who runs in the colours of Henry Ponsonby, and Hollie was quick to praise the owner, who has always been a big supporter.
She added:”Both Mr King and Mr Ponsonby have been hugely supportive. First Mohican was my first Glorious Goodwood winner, and I have ridden plenty for Mr Ponsonby. This was a fabulous piece of training from Mr King as Scarlet Dragon had seemingly lost his way on the Flat, so to bring him back after a long lay-off to win at Royal Ascot takes some doing.”
Ponsonby’s successful syndicates hope to top up the celebrations at Ascot today, courtesy of Who Dares Wins. At the start of the week it looked as if the ground might get too quick for Wh0 Dares Wins, but a few monsoons have ensured that he will get the soft going that suits him best.
The owner said:”This was actually Scarlet Dragon’s prep-race for the Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen next month. I didn’t think we’d even get a place turning for home, but Hollie knows him so well and gets a great tune out of him. It’s been a great day and maybe tomorrow will be another one.”