No Go Paddington – Big Rock Shines

A runaway winner

French raider Big Rock (5/1) produced a devastating front-running performance to slam his rivals by six lengths in the Gr1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) at Ascot on Saturday.

Always travelling strongly under Aurelien Lemaitre, Big Rock just kept on rolling as the opposition toiled in behind and ultimately had no trouble ending a run of three successive Gr1 runner-up placings this season.

Big Rocks wins the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO)
(Pic – Megan Rose Photography)

Facteur Cheval (14/1) kept on from off the pace to make it a one-two for French-trained runners, a neck in front of Tahiyra (7/2) who could never get to grips with the runaway winner.

The 7/4 favourite Paddington was well below par, offering Ryan Moore nothing when push came to shove.

This was a poignant success for trainer Christopher Head, whose father Freddy won the race twice, most recently with Solow in 2015.

Head said: “Big Rock was tremendous. Today was pretty much the best mile race of the season and seeing him win this way is crazy. What a horse, what a season. He’s really doing very well on that type of ground, but that was very, very impressive.

“I am really happy for the owner (Leopoldo Fernandez Pujals of Yeguada Centurion SL) because he has done tremendous work with the breeding and this horse is the pinnacle of the breeding system.

“You are always a bit scared that the rest of the runners will come on to you but he was always going faster and faster. We had faith because we have known him all throughout the season and he has always been like this.

“It is very nice to see him winning this race, because it is one of the best mile races in Europe. We need to discuss with the owner about whether he will stay in training and Leo will decide what we do.”

Lemaitre, who was riding his first winner in Britain, said: “That was very easy. Big Rock loved the ground today. He is a professional horse – he loved the soft ground, had very good pace and a great turn of foot. It is fantastic to win a Group One at Ascot. I am very happy.”

Mickael Barzalona said of Facteur Cheval: “He raced very well, he travelled easy and he’s been very tough to get second place.”

Tahiyra’s rider Chris Hayes said: “It was an unusual race. Big Rock had us all under pressure; he set a quick tempo on very testing ground. I’m very proud of my filly on ground she hated. She wouldn’t accept defeat, and she kept trying to the line. Hopefully she’s there next year; she is a remarkable filly.”

Dermot Weld added: “Tahiyra has run a brilliant race. We are delighted with her, it’s just the conditions on the mile are very testing. She didn’t really handle the ground, but she tries so hard. Somebody had to go after the horse in front and she said, ‘I’m going after him!’.”

On future plans, he said: “We will see how she comes out of the race and will make a decision.”

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) (Group 1)

1 Big Rock (Yeguada Centurion SL) Christopher Head FR 3-9-03 Aurelien Lemaitre 5/1

2 Facteur Cheval (Team Valor International LLC & Gary Barber) Jerome Reynier 4-9-06 Mickael Barzalona 14/1

3 Tahiyra (HH Aga Khan) Dermot Weld IRE 3-9-00 Chris Hayes 7/2

11 ran         7/4F Paddington (9th)

Christoper Head – 1st winner on QIPCO British Champions Day

Aurelien Lemaitre – 1st winner on QIPCO British Champions Day

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