Candleford produced the performance of his career so far to slam his Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap rivals by an emphatic six lengths, much to the delight of his owner/breeders Barnane Stud.
The sizeable son of Kingman, sent off a well-backed 11/2 chance, burst out of the pack and stormed passed eventual runner-up Ajero in the manner of a horse that will have Pattern-class contests on his agenda going forward. Northern raider Contact (15/2) finished well from off the pace to grab third, with Brilliant Light (20/1) also running on well for fourth.
Candleford is a 14th Royal Ascot winner for trainer William Haggas and his second of the week after Baaeed’s success in the opening G1 Queen Anne Stakes.
The trainer said: “Candleford likes going right-handed. He improved quite a lot during the autumn last year – I think he last won in December – and a right-handed mile and a half was right up his street. He won well, but a bit too well!
“I thought all winter we’d win the Duke of Edinburgh – but not with him! I didn’t think he’d ever get in. A lot of them may not have handled the ground, but he handles it.
“I would like to mention Alison Samuel, who rides him every day and tells everyone about him every day, and she will be in tears for a week.”
Former England cricketer Craig Kieswetter, whose family own Barnane Stud in Co Tipperary, said: “It’s always good fun. William said never mind having a winner at Royal Ascot, to have a runner is an incredible achievement, so we are delighted. Candleford is our first homebred winner and our first homebred Royal Ascot winner. It is very cool.”
Winning jockey Tom Marquand said: “That was unbelievable. William brought Candleford here without having a run this year. It was a bold thing to do, but he clearly knew where this chap was.
“He said he was feeling great and just to enjoy it. It’s great to get one on the board and well done to everyone at home. They had Baaeed earlier in the week, but it’s great to keep the Royal Ascot winners flowing.
“Candleford has trounced them. I could’ve been a little nicer to him at the two-furlong pole, but I thought I had to go and put the race to bed. I didn’t expect him to do it in that fashion.
“That was a really good performance. He is a horse that is improving and there is no reason why he can’t step up again.”
Ajero’s trainer Kim Bailey said: “I hate being second! Actually, I am thrilled, he has run a great race.
“David Bass fell off him at Huntingdon and there wasn’t a race for him until July so we said, ‘come on, let’s see how he’ll go on the Flat’ and we nominated this race then, but I didn’t believe that he’d get in!
“We are thrilled for the owners – they bought him to win at Cheltenham and they have nearly had a winner at Royal Ascot! We will keep him on the Flat now, although I am not sure how many times he’d go on this fast ground. He’ll be in the swimming pool tomorrow morning to relax.”
David Barron said of the third: “Contact kept going. He was a long way back and got himself into the race and contention. It was a cracking good run.
“We would like to step him up in trip, as I think he would benefit from it, but it is a job finding a race. He won’t get into the top races and his mark won’t change a lot after today. He is still in the same place.”
Royal Ascot News Release
Candleford wins the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap (credit: Megan Ridgwell)