Royal Ascot 2023

Villanova Queen provides Colin Keane with maiden Royal Ascot victory

Colin Keane finally broke his Royal Ascot duck as Villanova Queen (25/1) swept down the outside to land an eventful renewal of the Kensington Palace Fillies’ Handicap by half a length.

The four-time Irish Flat champion had waited a long time for his first winner at the Royal Meeting, but he kept clear of trouble and the wide route ultimately proved key for the Jessica Harrington-trained filly.

Don’t Tell Claire ran a fine race in second for Daniel & Claire Kubler, while the well-backed Tarrabb was a head further back in third.

Keane said: “It has been a while coming, but it’s unfortunate for Shane Foley, who is injured and couldn’t ride. I am very grateful to Mrs Harrington for giving me the ride.

“It is a weight off your shoulders – this is the biggest stage in racing and I’ve been coming here year in and year out trying to get one. It is very satisfying.

“The race was very straightforward for me. Mrs Harrington said ‘ride her wherever she relaxes – if there’s a lot of pace early doors let her find her feet’. It was very congested at the bottom of the straight, and another thing she said was ‘keep her smooth, challenge wide and have one good run’ and it worked.”

Assistant trainer Kate Harrington said: “I thought Villanova Queen had a good chance, dropping back from Group and Listed company into a handicap. On her run the last day, if you go back and look at it she didn’t get the clearest of runs and the time before that the ground was a bit soft in Leopardstown. It’s a real credit to the owners, it’s taken a while to get this filly back to what we knew she was prior to the Irish Guineas last year, where she picked up a bit of an injury. It’s just great to get her back and show the faith in her. She had a very good run last year behind Homeless Songs in the Guineas trial, and we knew this was in her, but it’s great now she’s back on track – onwards and upwards for the rest of the season. 

“In Tipperary when she won, she came wide. She’s a big-striding filly and if you knock her off balance, she takes five or six strides to get going again. The only instruction to Colin was, ‘whatever you do, I don’t care if you come wider, because she has to get wide’. Once she passed one horse, I knew she would always get there because she just keeps rolling and rolling.”

She added: “Mum is at Nicky’s, she had the sale on Monday and was here yesterday, so just took the one day off and is back here the next two days. She’ll have the champagne ready on ice for Nicky to arrive back this evening!”

Daniel Kubler said of Don’t Tell Claire: “She is six and it would be amazing to get some black type for her, which she deserves. She has beaten so many horses which have black type, and she’s beaten Listed winners there. She’s off to stud next year, so we have to search for a stallion, which is really exciting, too.”

Jack Mitchell added: “Nearly a second win of the week – I got a bit excited at the furlong pole! She obviously had a wide draw [18] and she’s a closing filly anyway. We got there probably with a furlong to run, got into a battle with the horse on my left and one just came over the top. She battled all the way to the line and has done nothing wrong, especially drawn out there.”

3.05pm Kensington Palace Fillies’ Handicap

1 Villanova Queen (William Crager) Jessica Harrington IRE 4-9-10 Colin Keane 25/1

2 Don’t Tell Claire (Andrew Stonehill) Daniel & Claire Kubler 6-8-13 Jack Mitchell 22/1

3 Tarrabb (Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum) Owen Burrows 4-9-02 William Buick 13/2

4 Adelaise (Flexford Two & Kieran Leavy Partnership) Joseph O’Brien IRE 4-8-11 Mikey Sheehy 7/1

19 ran              5/1F Yerwanthere (5th)

Jessica Harrington – 4th Royal Ascot winner

Colin Keane – 1st Royal Ascot winner

Sectional times: