The Aidan O’Brien-trained Kew Gardens (10/3) finished an agonising half-length second to 11/1 shot Defoe in the £445,000 Gr1 Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs.
Ridden cold by Ryan Moore at the back of the field in the early stages of the 12-furlong contest, Kew Gardens made stylish headway in the home straight to take the lead entering the final furlong.
However, Defoe, trained by Roger Varian and ridden by Andrea Atzeni ran on strongly up the far-side rail to collar O’Brien’s charge in the Gr1 event.
O’Brien said: “I’m delighted with Kew Gardens. He ran a very good race.
“Ryan was delighted with him and was pleased with the performance. We’ll see how he comes out of the race, but the King George is a possibility.
The Sylvester Kirk-trained Salouen (pictured below), a son of Ridgemont Highlands sire Canford Cliffs, led for most of the contest and was a further five lengths behind in third.
Kirk commented: “I was getting excited with a couple of furlongs to run! He was going to better than anything else turning in.
“Salouen has run another great race in this contest. They went a good gallop and he has run a smashing race.
“The Hardwicke Stakes is hopefully the plan. We’ll wait and see how he comes out of the race, but that is where I would like to go to.”
Oisin Murphy, who partnered Salouen, remarked: “It was a massive run. He settled great and the pace was just even. The best horse won on the day.”
Franny Norton, who rode fourth home Communique (25/1), trained by Mark Johnston, added: “He ran well and Communique actually beat the winner last time out at Newmarket.”
The 11/4 favourite Lah Ti Dar, finished sixth and jockey Frankie Dettori added: “She just didn’t handle the track.”
Newmarket-based Varian, for whom it was a second Investec Coronation Cup win after Postponed’s 2016 victory, said: “You dream about results like that. We were slow from the gate and we didn’t get the handy pitch that we were looking for; maybe as it has turned out, that has worked in our favour. We had a lovely trip round the inside; of course they fanned out to challenge in the straight and he got a lovely split. Still, he was good – he quickened up really well. On his day he has looked like a Group One horse, and his last three or four runs perhaps haven’t quite measured up to his summer form of last year, but I said beforehand that I didn’t think he has ever been better.
“I’m so happy for his owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, who is a great supporter and who has been very patient, and of course so happy for the team at home who are doing a great job., I’m delighted with the result; it is fully deserved for the horse and we’ll really enjoy it. It’s a great day.
“It was a great ride, but they always are when they win! From his draw – one and two are quite tricky here over a mile and a half. History and the stats will tell you that, but it’s really worked out for him. Andrea saved every bit of ground he could, and when they fanned out there was just enough room. There was a sort of gap – if you were going well enough you could take it; if you weren’t quite going well enough they would have rolled in on top of them. Andrea was sat on a fair bit of horse; the horse went through the gap without flinching, then once he had a target he always looked like getting there.
“I was fairly relaxed watching it because I thought, well, we could run first three or four, and it was a bit different to watching Postponed [who won this race for Varian in 2016], when he was even money and expected to win. As the race developed today I thought he had a real chance.”