Royal Ascot 2024: Asfoora wins the King Charles III Stakes

Asfoora, ridden by Oisin Murphy, on the way to winning the King Charles III Stakes on day one of Royal Ascot 2024 at Ascot Racecourse on Tuesday, June 18 2024
-Credit: (Image: John Walton/PA)


Australian raider Asfoora (5-1) swooped through to win the King Charles III Stakes in fine style on the opening day of Royal Ascot 2024.

The Henry Dwyer-trained five-year-old is a multiple Group winner in her native Australia. And having arrived in Britain in the spring, she warmed up for Royal Ascot when finishing just under three lengths behind Kerdos in the Group Two Temple Stakes at Haydock Park last month. But with that debut run in Britain on Merseyside under her belt, the Flying Artie mare grabbed victory at the top level, under a fine ride by Oisin Murphy. The Mick Appleby-trained star juvenile from last year, Big Evs, blitzed a trail for much of the race, leading the group down the middle of the track. But he had no answer to the finishing kick of Asfoora who went to the front and scored by a length from Ed Bethell's Regional, who won the six-furlong Sprint Cup at Haydock last September. Big Evs held on for third, a further half-a-length adrift. Another Haydock scorer, George Boughey's recent Achilles Stakes heroine Believing (9-1) was a short head back in fourth with Kerdos (14-1) another length-and-three-quarters adrift in fifth.

Asfoora is the the fifth Australian sprinter to win the race formerly known as the King's Stand Stakes after Choisir (2003), Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007), Scenic Blast (2009) and Nature Strip (2022).

A jubilant Dwyer said: "We've got so many people here - not only the owners of Asfoora, but 40 or 50 of my owners from home who would saw the end of their leg off to have a runner at Royal Ascot. It's amazing. I think there will be the mother of all parties tonight! We needed a lead-up run at Haydock, so she came over early, but just with the changing of seasons we wanted to be here before it was too cold in Australia and too warm over here. We came over in the nice interchange period, and we need not have worried because she settled in brilliantly, and the proof was in the pudding today. That was my third Group One winner. To do it here, at Royal Ascot, is just amazing."

Dwyer continued: "We've got a good stable but it is very hard to find these horses when you only have 40 or 50 in work. We don't expect to have these owners and it's an absolute luxury to have them and for the owner to trust me. It's such a gamble bringing her over and it is such an expensive trip. We're getting a bit of help from Ascot, but it is still expensive and the owner is funding it. Hopefully we've paid our way today. It is sublime and some great names from Australia who have won here have trained over 150 Group One winners and that's only my third. To do it in Europe, and at Royal Ascot, is brilliant. I've never been here with a runner before but it's a bit more fun winning than watching. This meeting brings the best of the best from around the world together and who would have thought I would get to meet King Charles - it's amazing."

WInning jockey Murphy, partnering his 12th career winner at the Royal meeting, was impressed with the mare. He said: "When push came to shove she was very gutsy because I wasn't sure and the other group with Big Evs was a long way in front of me. I have to admire her tenacity to go and run them down. It's special to be a part of and it's a very difficult feat to bring her over here at this time of year when it is approaching the Australian winter and prepare her - Henry has done a top job.

"It was great that they thought of me and to win for them was really great. When I sat on her, they publicised the times and we didn't go very fast at all, so it was very hard for me to say I would win the King Charles III Stakes beforehand off the back of that. I was unsure at halfway when I said go, but she really picked up and ran on well. To be presented with the trophy by the King was a privilege and it was great to get the opportunity."

A return to the Breeders' Cup in the autumn is on the cards for thrid home, Big Evs. Trainer Appleby was pleased with the performance in defeat and will now send his stable star on more speed favouring tracks, like Del Mar in November.

He said: "He's run very well, he showed a lot of speed early on and the stiff finish just caught up with him in the last 100 yards. He's taking on the older horses, the best sprinters in the world, and he's held his own against them. He's only going to improve on that as he gets older, I'm very pleased with the run. He's rapid and he's better on a quicker five, it's a bit stiff here so we'll possibly go back to Goodwood with him then hopefully we'll go back to the Breeders' Cup."

Jockey Tom Marquand added: "He's run a belter, he's just incredibly quick and you just wonder whether when an Ascot five furlongs, now he's a year older and feels even quicker and more purposeful, whether it gets him out on his legs late. He's run a screamer and carried his Group One form from two to three, after York there wasn't much doubt in my mind that he would be able to. Mick and the team have done a great job getting him here today in prime order and there's definitely more big days in him, but he might just be a bit too quick for a stiff track like this."

Runner-up Regional is now likely to head to Newmarket for the July Cup, where he will step back up in trip to six furlongs. Trainer Bethell said: "Fair play to the Australians, they won fair and square. They got their horse in great nick here today, so fair play. (I have) mixed emotions. Possibly should we be going up to six furlongs? We will go up to six, because we are hitting the line good. It's just horseracing, isn't it? We did all the donkey work, it was tremendous really and I'm delighted for the horse and delighted for Callum (Rodriguez) and delighted for these guys who have put their money into it – it's great to have syndicates like this.

"Another half a furlong and we might have got there! That's horseracing. We can be nothing but proud of our horse. He's run a big race today, he had a good blow, so I would imagine we will try and aim towards something like the July Cup now. After that, I don't know where we will go."

Rashabar, ridden by Billy Loughnane (centre), lands a shock 80-1 victory in the Coventry Stakes on day one of Royal Ascot 2024 at Ascot Racecourse on Tuesday, June 18 2024
Rashabar, ridden by Billy Loughnane (centre), lands a shock 80-1 victory in the Coventry Stakes on day one of Royal Ascot 2024 at Ascot Racecourse on Tuesday, June 18 2024 -Credit:John Walton/PA

Rashabar just hung on for a shock 80-1 victory in the Coventry Stakes as held off the late challenge of fellow outsiders, the Wathnan Racing duo Electrolyte (40-1) and Columnist (50-1) to land Group Two honours.

Brian Meehan's two-year-old had not won in his previous racecourse appearances, despite running well in defeat at Newbury and Chester. But the son Holy Roman Emperor colt – just manafged to triumph by a nose, under teenager Billy Loughnane.

Rashabar led the group on the stands rail and initiallly burst clear inside the final furlong. But Electrolyte, under Hollie Doyle, and Columnist, ridden by Oisin Orr, both closed on the run to the line. But Rashabar just held on by a nose and a head.

The 18-year-old Loughnane was delighted to bag his first career winner at the Royal meeting. He said: "It's an amazing feeling, to be doing it so young is massive. I was second in one of the races last year, I was beaten a couple of lengths, it was hard as I'm so young and it was my first Ascot, but when I look back on it it was a great achievement to even be riding at Ascot at 17 years old. What a feeling today, I'll try to savour every moment. I've worn these silks a few times, I've ridden quite a bit for Brian and Manton, they're colours with a deep history and to be able to put them on is a great achievement."

Trainer Meehan added: "Dare I say it, it's not a huge surprise. He's felt very good since Chester, everything has gone very well with him throughout. Sean Levey said that when a horse runs around Chester it's like having two runs, they learn so much, especially a two-year-old that had only run once before. We've felt really good the past few weeks, we were always aiming for here.

"There was a thought in my head throughout that he was never going to be a five-furlong horse, but we want to get two runs for our two-year-olds before Ascot. I didn't think he'd win over five, but he ran very well, better than I thought, and at Chester he was badly drawn and had he not missed the break he'd have won. The form has worked out very well. We're very lucky that we get to use Billy when we can. He's a great kid with a lovely way about him, he's wonderful with people and the world is his oyster."

On winning a race at Royal Ascot in those famous colours, Meehan added: "It is. You can try to keep a lid on things now, but we'll draw breath in an hour or so and take some pleasure out of it. Right now it's just about showing what we can do, the team at home, the early mornings, the late nights, everything that's done, the talking, the thinking and the working it out. It's just very special."

Rashabar is owned by Manton Thoroughbreds, and Sangster's son, Sam, was emotional as he added: "I'm pretty much in tears behind my sunglasses, it was amazing. Brian has believed in the horse from day one and I really did feel we had a big chance. There was a reason I set the syndicate up 10 years ago, to keep the colours going. We have a lot of runners, it's been fantastic in the last couple of years. We had Isaac Shelby last year and this fellow this year. I'm a bit lost for words and emotional, especially when you talk about the colours and my old man."

Archie Watson said of the runner-up Electrolyte: "I got beat a neck across the track in the race with Army Ethos last year and we've got beat a nose in the race across the track this year. I guess it's fantastic to be sent these horses from Wathnan, he ran a huge race and he's going to be a proper two-year-old. I'm gutted, but delighted - the main thing is the horse ran well. I guess James (Doyle) had the choice between the three (Wathnan horses) and that had a bearing on his odds, but I think we've now had a third, a winner and two seconds in this race in the last three years."

The third home, Columnist, is trained by Richard Fahey, and Wathnan's racing adviser Richard Brown added: "It's Archie I feel sorry for, but both have run fantastic races and we're delighted. There's a good team here from Qatar and none of us are under any illusions about how tough it is to win at Ascot and that race goes to show it. Well done to Brian Meehan and his team, it was a great race and ours have performed with great credit. It's mixed emotions, but we've got two very nice horses to look forward to. This project isn't just about Ascot, it's also about the future and that shows we have two nice horses to go to war with for the rest of the season."