Shaquille comes from downtown to land Commonwealth Cup
Shaquille (9/1) confirmed himself the star of the three-year-old sprinting ranks after overcoming a terrible start to win the G1 Commonwealth Cup for Oisin Murphy and Julie Camacho.
It was a remarkable performance from the fast-improving Shaquille, who appeared to have blown his chance by rearing as the stalls opened and forfeiting several lengths.
However, Murphy was at his best on the Charm Spirit colt, allowing his mount to creep into the race before unleashing a telling change of gear to edge past Little Big Bear and score by a length and a quarter.
The 10/11 favourite Little Big Bear dominated the build-up after bouncing back to form in the G2 Sandy Lane Stakes but he proved no match for the winner. The filly Swingalong was three quarters of a length further back in third.
It was a first Royal Ascot winner for Camacho, who said of the slow start: “I thought, ‘well that’s it, he’s blown his chance’. I’ve just watched it live and would like to go back and watch it properly – he was good, wasn’t he?
“It’s massive. We never thought we would train a Group One winner, not at Royal Ascot anyway, and for Martin [Hughes, owner] it’s massive. He bred him. We’ve got his mother at home, his siblings, and dad looks after the stud, so I’m sure he was screaming at home.”
Asked whether she was surprised by the fact he even got back into the race, she said: “I was. When he started to run, I thought, ‘he’s going to be placed’ and that he would run a big race, but then I thought ‘oh my God, he’s going to win’. I am a bit speechless.”
Murphy, riding his first winner of the week, said: “As the stalls opened, Shaquille went up into the air, and he took his time coming back down to the ground. It’s very hard to do that in a 1,200 metre race and win.
“I thought the race was almost over. You just have to take a deep breath and then try to get onto the back of them [the other runners] smoothly. You just have to hope they’ve gone too fast and will slow down at the end.
“I got to the back of Ryan [Moore, Little Big Bear] quite easily without having to go for him, but I had to sustain an effort from quite a long way out. It really was a tremendous task that he managed to overcome.
“He’s a tough, top-class animal. It’s very hard to win any race doing what he did from the stalls and so to do it in a Group One, and to beat the likes of Little Big Bear, is an astounding performance.
“I’ve had a fantastic comeback and brilliant support from so many people. To get on the scoresheet today in a Group One is a brilliant feeling. I had three seconds before today so it’s nice to win one.
“I feel for James Doyle. If Noble Style had not run, Shaquille was going to be his ride. I came in for a spare ride, but thank you to James for telling me about the horse. And thank you to the connections for letting me ride him.”
Aidan O’Brien said of Little Big Bear: “I am delighted with the run. He ran very well. I think he is a sprinter, and we will be looking forward to the July Cup.”
Swingalong’s trainer Karl Burke said: “It was a fantastic run and Clifford [Lee] gave her a great ride. I knew the run in the French 1,000 Guineas was wrong – she did not stay the mile, but equally she would not have won over six furlongs that day.
“We were always targeting this race, she has been working real well. She will stay another half furlong, so we are thinking of the Prix Maurice de Gheest. We are very happy with her –she is a Group Two winner and now Group One placed.”
3.05pm Commonwealth Cup (Group 1) (British Champions Series)
1 Shaquille (Hughes, Rawlings, O’Shaughnessy) Julie Camacho 3-9-02 Oisin Murphy 9/1
2 Little Big Bear (D Smith, S Magnier, M Tabor, Westerberg) 3-9-02 Ryan Moore 10/11F
3 Swingalong (Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum) Karl Burke 3-8-13 Clifford Lee
Julie Camacho – 1st Royal Ascot winner
Oisin Murphy – 11th Royal Ascot winner
Sectional times: https://royalascot2023.racenewslive.co.uk/sectional-times/