Royal Ascot 2023

Bradsell survives stewards’ enquiry to land King’s Stand Stakes

Bradsell (14/1) completed a famous Royal Ascot double for trainer Archie Watson and jockey Hollie Doyle by edging out favourite Highfield Princess in the G1 King’s Stand Stakes.

Last year’s brilliant Coventry Stakes winner showed blistering speed to take command of the five-furlong sprint, but the lightly raced colt hung to his left in the closing stages, hampering runner-up Highfield Princess as she tried to challenge.

However, the winning margin of a length was enough for the Ascot stewards to rubber-stamp the result and confirm a first Royal Ascot G1 prize for Watson, whose Dragon Symbol lost the 2021 Commonwealth Cup in the stewards’ room.  

Watson said: “I am delighted. When Dragon Symbol had the race taken away, it was terrible, and I didn’t want to do too much celebrating, but I am just delighted for everyone. I know we’re seen as a big yard, but for a yard like us to be winning a Group One here is the best thing on the planet. There was dread when that bing-bong [of the stewards’ enquiry] happened, especially having just been chinned in the Coventry, but it’s amazing and I’m so pleased for everyone involved.

“This horse was like a bull in a china shop over the winter and Michael Murphy [work rider] had to put up with a lot. He had to trot for months and Michael does a fantastic job with him, day in, day out. Between him and Hollie, they ride the gallops together, and Mike rides him every day and has done an amazing job. My whole team have done a great job with him. We just felt this year he was showing a lot more speed in his races and not getting home over six. I thought we’d get a proper tow into the race today, and I didn’t want to sound arrogant but nothing could take us off the bridle until deep into the race, and it was kind of what we really felt with him. I’m just so glad he’s justified the belief today.

“He’s a Coventry winner over a stiff six here so he was always going to come back here over six; he wasn’t ever going to be a miler or anything, so the plan all winter was to come to the Commonwealth Trial here and on to the Commonwealth Cup. I thought he showed up best of the horses in the Commonwealth Trial; I thought he got a bit tired late, so we ran in the Sandy Lane and he ran a similar sort of race, and I knew it couldn’t have been tiredness that day. Even in the Coventry last year, they could only really take him to the four and a half furlong pole and then Hollie had to say ‘right, I’m getting on with this now’. He’s got so much speed and it was an easy decision to pull back to five. It wasn’t easy in terms of we had to pay £35,000 to supplement him – I was feeling slightly iffy yesterday when he was 40/1 in the betting, thinking, God, we’ve spent quite a lot of money for a 40/1 shot, but when he was 12/1 before the off I thought that’s all right.

“I think Hollie and I have had 200-odd winners together now; she’s been massive for my career and I hope vice versa. What I’ve always said about Hollie is that she is very consistent, she doesn’t make many mistakes. She knows the team she’s in, she loves the horses and she knows exactly how I want them ridden. For a yard like mine, to have one of the top five jockeys in the country, which she is, to ride our horses is just fantastic for us.

Regarding future targets, Watson added: “Bradsell is in the July Cup, but he’ll probably be taken out on Tuesday because he’s not a six-furlong horse, is he, now?! I imagine the Nunthorpe will be the plan.”

Doyle said: “Well done to Archie for supplementing him and stepping him back in trip, which he’s really relished today. He loves this track.

“All credit to Mick Murphy who rides him every day because he’s really turned a corner in the last few weeks. You can tell.

“It’s always a gut-wrenching feeling when you hear the claxon go off. I pulled my stick through to my left hand to straighten him up. He was looking for a bit of company with Highfield Princess who was at his quarters.

“The way he travelled into it was unbelievable and he quickened up nicely. It was great to be on top of him.”

John Quinn said of Highfield Princess, who could line up in Saturday’s G1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes: “I was absolutely delighted with her. Jason [Hart] thought she was getting going again – when you’re going straight and you get nudged that way – and he’s certainly got a case.

“She is a six-year-old mare and she’s run two fantastic races this season. The only thing that’s holding us back is – and I don’t make excuses, whatever the result is, well done to whoever – when you can run her and run her, she’s better. I am not making excuses. If she ran well today, Saturday was always right in mind. We are leaving her down tonight and I’ll go and have a look at her – if she’s OK, she will run.”

Annaf finished third at 50/1 and his trainer Mick Appleby said: “He seemed in good order coming into the race, so I am very pleased. I wasn’t very happy when we got the draw [17] we did, but Rossa [Ryan] has done a great job getting him across. He’s got a big race in him. Hopefully he will keep improving this year. I think he is better over six furlongs, but a five like this – we will just see where we go next with him now. We might look at going to South Korea again. He ran well there last year, things just didn’t pan out, but we know a bit better now and there’s a good pot to win out there.”

3.40pm King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series)

1 Bradsell (Victorious Racing) Archie Watson 3-9-01 Hollie Doyle 14/1

2 Highfield Princess (Trainers House Enterprises Ltd) 6-9-04 Jason Hart 7/4F

3 Annaf (Fosnic Racing) Michael Appleby 4-9-07 Rossa Ryan 50/1

17 ran

Archie Watson – 3rd Royal Ascot winner

Hollie Doyle – 4th Royal Ascot winner

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