Royal Ascot 2023

Witch Hunter ends five-year drought for Spencer at Royal Ascot

Jamie Spencer had to wait five years for Royal Ascot win number 27 but the veteran jockey was at his brilliant best on Witch Hunter, who swooped late to win the Buckingham Palace Stakes by three quarters of a length.

Sent off an unconsidered 50/1 chance, Richard Hannon’s charge nearly blew all chance with a slow start, but he was given an ice-cool ride by Spencer, who sat chilly at the back of the field before making his move going into the final two furlongs.

Croupier (7/1) looked like he had made a winning bid for home under William Buick but was run down late on, with Northern Express (16/1) and Spangled Mac (25/1) completing the minor places.

The winning jockey hadn’t tasted Royal Ascot success since steering home Pallasator for Gordon Elliott in the 2018 Queen Alexandra Stakes.

Hannon said: “William [Stobart, owner] rang me one day and said he’d like to buy a horse to go to Royal Ascot. We got here, 100/1, no chance, and he looked like he had no chance, sitting last, and he’s gone and won. It does happen to nice people sometimes.

“Jamie’s given him a lovely ride – I hate the way he rides, why does he keep doing that to us?! But he gave him a super ride and the horse kind of enjoyed that. When he passes one, he gets his momentum. And when they pass him, sometimes he just goes, ‘sod it, I’ll go another day’. He’s a very good horse on his day and I don’t care what price he is.

“I am delighted for William, he’s a lovely man, and his wife Clare. I kind of needed that!”

Spencer said: “Witch Hunter been running well on the all-weather, and you often find that horses who have been on the all-weather can perform here. I followed Frankie thinking I might finish fifth or sixth but, at the two-furlong marker, he came back on the bridle and I thought ‘oh, he might do a little better than that’. At the furlong pole, I thought I had a chance of winning and he came good at the end. He was second top weight – weight stops trains, but that’s the Stobart business!

“It’s grand, every time you have a winner here you are happy. It wasn’t expected, but everyone likes a surprise every now and then. I started the week with a few that didn’t fire – for Mr Gosden’s filly Grande Dame [eighth in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes] the ground was too dry, although Light Infantry ran well [third in the Queen Anne Stakes]. It’s a hard place to win but you have to ride every horse accordingly, block out what happened half an hour ago, go out positive again, and see how it works out.”

William Stobart said: “That is so emotional, incredible, amazing. You couldn’t write a book like that, and what was he this morning? 100/1. But he was hard to fancy on paper. I can’t believe it.”

Ed Crisford said of Croupier: “He travelled well and picked up nicely. I thought we had won, and then Jamie had one out the back and came so late I didn’t see him! He won the Hambleton and we thought we would drop him back today to seven, just because we thought a stiff seven would suit him and he ran a super race. We are very pleased.”

6.10pm Buckingham Palace Handicap

1 Witch Hunter (William Stobart) Richard Hannon 4-9-10 Jamie Spencer 50/1

2 Croupier (Ed Ware) Simon & Ed Crisford 4-9-06 William Buick 7/1

3 Northern Express (Sekura Group) Michael Dods 5-9-04 Paul Mulrennan 16/1

4 Spangled Mac (Adrian McAlpine) George Boughey 4-9-02 Daniel Muscutt 25/1

29 ran             13/2 fav Biggles (9th)

Richard Hannon – 8th Royal Ascot winner

Jamie Spencer – 27th Royal Ascot winner

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