FORMER Adelaide footballer Jeremy Gask has been narrowly denied his greatest racing triumph after veteran sprinter Medicean Man was beaten by a short head in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) as Shamal Wind failed to fire at Royal Ascot.
Ridden by Joao Moreira in place of Damien Oliver, 50-1 outsider Medicean Man was pipped by Goldream in a desperately close finish.
Gask, an all-Australian Teal Cup representative in 1990, has been training in England for several seasons and has now suffered four Group 1 defeats.
“That was almost a life-changing event,” Gask said.
“I thought he was unfairly written off. People forget he was beaten two lengths in this race last year. Some thought he should have been 100-1. He was always going to run well.”
Trainer Robert Smerdon was surprised by Shamal Wind’s failure on suitable ground and with perfect tempo.
Jockey Ryan Moore told Smerdon the Oakleigh Plate winner simply could not accelerate.
“She just didn’t quicken as we expected she would,” Smerdon said.
“She was where we knew she would be, but she didn’t run to expectations.”
Always well back, Shamal Wind passed few runners as the leaders fought out the finish. She ended up finishing 13th.
“She was plain, she’s a lot better than that, she wasn’t on her game today,” Smerdon told AAP.
Her defeat capped a sobering day for Australia.
Expatriate trainer John Moore said Able Friend succumbed to Royal Ascot’s rarefied atmosphere after delivering a career-worst sixth in the Queen Anne Stakes (1600m)behind French star Solow.
Vowing to return for another crack, Moore said Able Friend was physically fine post-race.
Under pressure to stay in touch from the 400m mark, the Australian-bred Hong Kong superstar paddled up Ascot’s steep rise, beaten nine lengths.
Moore said Moreira offered no excuses, revealing the Asian cult figure was “agitated” pre-race.
“I think the aura of the whole thing got to him, but he’ll be OK,” Moore said.
“When we saddled him up, he wasn’t his normal self. He was on the toe and he got down to the gates and the jockey did say he was quite hot down there. That’s not normally him, but he seems to have pulled up OK and we’ll get him back to Hong Kong and get him into his normal swing.
“You’ve got to remember animals travelling long distances, new environments, it’s not always perfect. I was hoping he would be the same demeanour here in saddling and in the paddock and everything, but that just wasn’t the case.”
Moore said the world’s former top-ranked horse would now be spelled before returning in October ahead of December’s Longines Mile.
“It was great being part of the Royal meeting. I’m sorry he wasn’t able to live up to his Hong Kong races but we’ll be back again,” Moore said.
“We’ll be looking to come back with either him or something else. Physically, he’s as good as gold. He just said he changed legs about the four (furlongs, 800m), that was about it. Otherwise no explanation.”
A cult figure in Asian racing’s most competitive stage, Able Friend had won 12 of 18 starts, including eight over 1600m at Sha Tin.
Initially trained in Australia by John Michael and Wayne Hawkes, Able Friend had never previously finished worse than fourth.
But he fell victim to Royal Ascot’s punishing undulations as Solow, Estorique and Cougar Mountain fought out the finish.
Some of Europe’s greatest gallopers have triumphed in the Queen Anne, including Frankel, Markofdistinction and Barathea — and Dubai Turf winner Solow is on the rise towards that company.
Australia’s Haradasun won in 2008 when trained by Aidan O’Brien.