Aussie Mare – It’s A Long Way From Ballarat To Ascot!

What a story!

Asfoora became the sixth Australian-trained horse to win the Gr1 King Charles III Stakes over five furlongs on Day 1 of Royal 2024 on Tuesday.

The five-year-old mare, a first runner at the meeting for trainer Henry Dwyer, broke the hearts of favourite backers as she collared three-year-old Big Evs with half a furlong to run, and then pulled ahead for a decisive victory.

Sent off a 5/1 chance under Oisin Murphy, Asfoora had a length in hand at the line, with Regional taking second and the 11/4 favourite Big Evs half a length further back in third.

Asfoora wins the King Charles III Stakes (credit: Megan Coggin)

Oisin Murphy glances across as Asfoora wins the King Charles III Stakes (credit: Megan Coggin)

Twice placed at Gr1 level in Australia, this was Asfoora’s first top-level victory and came on the back of a fourth in last month’s Gr2 Temple Stakes at Haydock.

Dwyer said: “I am really struggling for words, funnily enough. We have come a long way from Ballarat, but it’s been an amazing experience from start to finish. We’ve been so well looked after and we’re so grateful for that.

“Chanel, who looks after this horse the whole time, has sacrificed a lot to be here so I’m thrilled for her. It was a bit of an audacious plan. This time last year – or probably two years ago – I thought, we’re restricted in Australia and we need a few options over here. We couldn’t travel her at that stage – she wasn’t mentally sound enough. We took her to Perth last year for a race called the Quokka, an iconic Australian race, and it was more the travel that we wanted her to experience to see if she could come over here. She did it great, it was the making of her, and here we are.

“We got a bit of stick from home for bringing her over because she wasn’t seen as one of our better sprinters but we were just so confident that she was really textbook wheelhouse five furlongs and she’s proven that today. We just didn’t have the races for her in Australia and she’s proved she’s up to it and I’m thrilled for everyone involved.

“We needed a lead-up run at Haydock, so she came over early, but just with the changing of seasons we wanted to be here before it was too cold in Australia and too warm over here. We came over in the nice interchange period, and we needn’t have worried because she settled in brilliantly, and the proof was in the pudding today.

“I was incredibly lucky to have a couple of Group One winners in my first year, but it’s been a bit of a dry spell since then in terms of Group Ones. This mare just really deserved one. She’s had so much go against her in the Group Ones she has run in in Australia.

“To get a Group One at home is great but to get one at Royal Ascot is just amazing. We’ve got so many people here sharing it with us, but there is another group of 40 or 50 of my owners from home that would saw their left leg off to have a runner at Royal Ascot. It is an amazing experience.”

Murphy said: “I am thrilled for connections. It’s very brave to come from Australia with a very good horse, taking in all the travel and perform on the big day, but how good was she?

“I wasn’t focusing on Big Evs, I was focusing on Regional, who gave me a perfect tow to halfway. She lugged a little bit right under pressure, looking for company, but how good was she at the line.

“It is hard to win Group One races and the King Charles III Stakes is a massive race, so I’m delighted. Royal Ascot day one, to win a Group One, brilliant.”

Regional’s trainer Ed Bethell said: “Fair play to the Australians, they won fair and square. They got their horse in great nick here today. It is mixed emotions. It’s just horseracing, isn’t it? Ah look, it was tremendous really and I’m delighted for the horse, for Callum and for these guys, who have put their money into it – it is great to have syndicates like this. Another half a furlong and we might have got there! That’s horseracing. We can be nothing but proud of our horse. We will go up to six furlongs, because we are hitting the line good. I would imagine we will try and aim towards something like the July Cup now.”

Mick Appleby said of Big Evs: “He has run very well. He showed a lot of speed early on and the stiff finish just caught up with him in the last 100 yards. He’s taking on the older horses, the best sprinters in the world, and he’s held his own against them. He’s only going to improve on that as he gets older. He is rapid and he’s better on a quicker five, so we’ll possibly go back to Goodwood, and then hopefully back to the Breeders’ Cup.”

  • King Charles III Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series)

1 Asfoora (Noor Elaine Farm Pty Ltd) Henry Dwyer AUS 5-9-04 Oisin Murphy 5/1

2 Regional (Future Champions Racing) Edward Bethell 6-9-07 Callum Rodriguez 6/1

3 Big Evs (RP Racing Ltd) Mick Appleby 3-9-01 Tom Marquand 11/4F

17 ran 

 Henry Dwyer – 1st Royal Ascot winner

Oisin Murphy – 12th Royal Ascot winner

 

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