Royal Ascot 2024: Shareholder storms to victory in the Norfolk Stakes

Shareholder, ridden by James Doyle (left), on the way to winning the Norfolk Stakes on day three of Royal Ascot 2024 at Ascot Racecourse on Thursday, June 20 2024. Also pictured if favourite Whistlejacket (right, green colours), who finished fourth
-Credit: (Image: John Walton/PA)

Shareholder (12-1) stormed to victory in the opener on day three of Royal Ascot 2024, the Norfolk Stakes, to give trainer Karl Burke another juvenile success at the meeting.

The two-year-old colt, under James Doyle, moved through in the centre of the track to win the Group Two five-furlong contest. It was a case of deja vu as 24 hours earlier Leovanni had also won the opener for Liverpool FC fan Burke, jockey Doyle and the emerging powerful owners, Wathnan Racing.

Burke's Middleham stable is on fire at present and it was another juvenile success in the peacock blue and gold colours of the Emir of Qatar's racing operation, which has become a force on British racetracks last summer and even moreso this. Having been green when making a successful debut at Beverley, the 460,000 Euros purchase was much more professional this time. Under Doyle, Shareholder initially missed the break as the field split into two groups with the warm 10-11 favourite Whistlejacket prominent on the stands' side group. But as the far side moved clear Shareholder, who was travelling very well, came through and scored by a length from Tropical Storm (11-1) with Arizona Blaze (14-1) another head back in third. Aidan O'Brien's Whistlejacket, under Ryan Moore, stayed on to be a short-head further adrift in fourth, but was never getting to the smart winner.

Trainer Burke said: “Shareholder did a hell of a lot wrong first time, but I knew he’d step forward from that, even physically. Although he was two or three kilos lighter coming here today than Beverley, he looked bigger and stronger. Great credit must go to Richard Brown; I know he had plenty of money to spend, but he’s bought very well. Richard was quietly confident that he’d be able to turn the 7lb around with Sheikh Rashid’s horse [Moving Force], but I think this is a very good horse, and he’ll stay six furlongs as well. I thought we were going to get nabbed a furlong out, and then he’s gone again. I love the way he stretched again in the last 50 yards.”

On whether Shareholder would be a sprinter or a Classic horse in the future, Burke added: "I'd say he's speed. I think he will definitely stay six and I'm sure he'll be a Commonwealth Cup horse. I would think we'll step him up next time but I'll speak to the guys. I don't think he'll be a Guineas horse, he hasn't shown us that, although he relaxed very well today, so I suppose he has a chance."

Winning jockey Doyle said:“Shareholder is still learning. I tried to keep a lid on him for as long as possible and wanted to give him time to get organised. His debut was a bit messy at Beverley – it is a hard place to teach a horse, but he learned plenty. As we know, those smaller tracks get plenty of people there and it was like a mini Royal Ascot. So he’d seen pretty much all of this, and he took it very well.

“He missed the break a fraction – not nearly as badly as he did at Beverley, but he showed that speed to put himself in behind the leaders. He took time to get balanced up but, once he did, he always felt as though he had enough in the tank to keep going. He's got a big engine. A big thank you to Karl Burke – he has produced these horses lovely, which isn't an easy thing to do. He was very confident, Karl, so when he is confident you respect his opinion.”

Of the owners' growing influence on British racing, Doyle added: "It's great for British racing to have a superpower like this really getting behind British racing. It's been a tough sell, our sport, hasn't it, so we have to really take note when people want to invest and they deserve all the success."

Wathnan Racing's bloodstock advisor Richard Brown said: “It is very hard as you are up against breeding operations which have been going for 30 or 40 years. That really is the way to get the Derby-type horses, so we said if we could get some sharp juveniles, it would give us some action coming through. So with Olly Tait we put together a proposal to buy some breeze-up horses, which we did, with a view to maybe having a couple that could get to Ascot. What has happened in the past two days, you couldn’t even dream it would go like this. All credit to Karl Burke and his team. It is important to mention Richard Morgan-Evans and his team in Newmarket. Every horse we buy goes to Richard and they have a tailor-made, individual programme which involves immediate turnout in paddocks, and giving them that recovery time. Richard is a very important part of the process.

"It is usually said that it's too tight a turnaround to get a horse from the Arqana sale to Royal Ascot, but we like a challenge and I thought this was the horse to do it.”

Aidan O'Brien said of Whistlejacket: "Ryan (Moore) felt he was a bit relaxed and maybe I didn't have him sharp enough. His last run was on soft ground and Ryan said he finished off well but was just a little bit relaxed through the middle of the race."

Going The Distance, ridden by Rossa Ryan (left), on the way to winning the King George V Stakes on day three of Royal Ascot 2024 at Ascot Racecourse on Thursday, June 20 2024
Going The Distance, ridden by Rossa Ryan (left), on the way to winning the King George V Stakes on day three of Royal Ascot 2024 at Ascot Racecourse on Thursday, June 20 2024 -Credit:David Davies/PA

Going The Distance (9-1) came from almost the back to grab another victory in the King George V Stakes. The Ralph Beckett-trained gelded son of Lope De Vega was winning for a fourth race in a row, having been third on his debyt at Ffos Las last August. He backed up his victory on his seasonal return over 1m21/2f at Kempton in April with a even better success at the Royal meeting, when stepped up again to 1m4f. Under Rossa Ryan, the three-year-old had been in rear for much of the race, but he came down the outside to score by half-a-length from Joseph O'Brien's Neski Sherelski (33-1) with Go Daddy (25-1) the same distance back in third.

Beckett, scoring at the Royal meeting for a sixth time, said: "I think he was our only winner in April and he got 4 or 5lbs for winning there. Rossa was foot perfect on him, it was a balls of steel ride and it worked out well. We'll see what the handicapper does but he's bred to get a bit further, I wouldn't mind thinking of that but we'll enjoy today first."

Jockey Ryan, landing a fourth Royal Ascot winner, added: "The big question mark was the ground but he did a nice bit of work last week and we were all hopeful he'd run a big race. To get a winner for Mr Chan and his team, it's hard starting to get on some of the horses Frankie was riding and trying to do something with them, but to get a Royal Ascot winner is brilliant. I was a bit sick going home last night after just getting touched off in the Hunt Cup but it's amazing what 24 hours can do. I got a shuffle out turning in but he's very gutsy. To be fair he picked himself up at the top of the straight and he kept galloping for me. he had a bit of a look around when he hit the front."

Joseph O’Brien, trainer of Neski Sherelski, said: “It was a fantastic ride from Jamie [Spencer]. I am very proud of the horse. It is frustrating not to win, but he ran great. We’ll see how he pulls up and speak to Barry [Taylor], who owns him, but we probably won’t be rushing him back – that was a big run on hard ground, but he’s really exciting for the future.”

Go Daddy’s co-trainer William Muir added: “I am delighted. I came here thinking he had a big, big chance and that the step up to a mile and a half would suit. If it had been soft ground, he’d have won easy, but he copes with this ground fine and he’s run a blinder. As I said to Lewis [Edmunds] coming in, we can go wherever we want now.”