Royal Ascot 2023

Valiant Force causes huge shock in Norfolk Stakes

Valiant Force became the joint longest-priced winner ever at Royal Ascot when causing a 150/1 shock in the G2 Norfolk Stakes, the same starting price as 2020 Coventry Stakes victor Nando Parrado.

Despite having been beaten on both previous starts, the Adrian Murray-trained colt shot away from his rivals entering the final furlong, winning comfortably by a length and a quarter at the line to give jockey Rossa Ryan his second winner of the week.

It was a first Royal Ascot winner for Murray and Kia Joorabchian’s Amo Racing, which had placed at the meeting eight times before, not least in this corresponding race 12 months ago.

Malc, representing last year’s winning trainer Richard Fahey, was second at odds of 66/1, with 7/4 favourite Elite Status a further half-length behind in third.

Murray said: “I can’t believe it. I fell into racing by accident. A friend of mine got me involved in the Flat. It’s magic. We were third here on Tuesday [in the Coventry Stakes] and I wondered if that would ever happen again.

“We knew Valiant Force was a nice horse and I couldn’t believe the price – he was only beaten less than a length by His Majesty first time out and was 150/1 today. It didn’t make sense – I knew he was much better than that. It’s the stuff of dreams. It’s great for the small man. I’m based in Mullingar and have had some right nice jumpers in the past. I love it, love racing.”

Ryan, who was retained by Amo Racing until last autumn, said: “To be fair to the lads, they were confident he would run a big race. If you take away his last run at the Curragh when he was [left] on his own, he’s run a stormer first time out in a Listed race and that’s the most important form.

“He’s bred well, he’s bred to be a sprinter by Malibu Moon and if you look at him, he’s something else to look at – he was almost the stand-out in the paddock beside Karl Burke’s horse.

“He jumped well and did everything right – he was just in a rhythm and when I took a lead off Kevin [Stott on Thunder Blue] outside the two, I was always in a rhythm. I could have probably won further if something had come at me.

“He’s got the job done and to be still associated with Amo Racing is a big part for me. To get Kia [Joorabchian, head of Amo Racing] his first Royal Ascot winner is redemption for defeat last year.”

Fahey said of Malc: “I am delighted, absolutely over the moon. We thought we had a nice bunch, but it’s so tough here and you need everything to go right. I just felt with a couple of the others it didn’t go right, but today everything went right, he stuck his head down and had a go.”

Asked whether he feels this is a pure five-furlong horse, he added: “To be honest, we feel he is a six-furlong horse but at Ascot you’ve nearly got to get six. Mid-part of the race there, I’m not saying that’s where we lost it, but we just got a little bit outpaced and the winner got through strong. But I would have taken that well before the race.”

Oisin Orr added: “Malc has run a lovely race. His inexperience maybe just told today. He got a bit outpaced mid-race and he stayed on well. I think he’s going to come on when he goes up in trip.”

Elite Status’ trainer Karl Burke said: “He’s a lovely horse with a great future in front of him. The Prix Morny was always the target before today, so whether that’s changed – I’m just going to see Sheikh Obaid now – but I would imagine we will step him up into that type of race. He’s a proper Group horse. He is not the finished article yet.”

Joel Rosario said of American Rascal: “He broke real well out of there and they kind of got away a little bit from me. It was his first time here and it was all a little different for him. We will go on to the next one.”

2.30pm Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)

1 Valiant Force (Amo Racing/Mrs R O’Callaghan/G De Aguiar) Adrian Murray IRE 2-9-03 Rossa Ryan 150/1

2 Malc (Middleham Park Racing LXVI) Richard Fahey 2-9-03 Oisin Orr 66/1

3 Elite Status (Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum) Karl Burke 2-9-03 Clifford Lee 7/4F

14 ran

Adrian Murray – 1st Royal Ascot winner

Rossa Ryan – 3rd Royal Ascot winner

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