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Distance runner gets up late for thrilling King George V win

Going The Distance and Rossa Ryan deliverGoing The Distance and Rossa Ryan deliver
© Photo Healy Racing

Going The Distance came from the clouds to grab victory in a thrilling renewal of the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot.

A field of 19 runners went to post for the mile-and-a-half contest, with much of the pre-race focus on Gilded Water, who was the 5-1 favourite to provide trainer William Haggas, jockey Tom Marquand and the King and Queen with back-to-back victories following Desert Hero’s memorable success 12 months ago.

Going The Distance, who won his last two starts of last season and his first of this, was a 9-1 shot for Ralph Beckett and had only Neski Sherelski behind him rounding the home turn.

Both horses made up from hand over fist in the straight and it was Going The Distance who finished just the best down the outside of runners to beat Neski Sherelski by half a length in the hands of Rossa Ryan. Gilded Water was a well-beaten 12th.

Winning owner Marc Chan said: “We have won in Ascot before, but Royal Ascot is such a difficult meeting to win at and I’m over the moon about this. This is right up there with my best achievements as an owner.”

Chan’s good friend is a certain Frankie Dettori, absent from the saddle this week having said farewell to Britain on Champions Day.

He said: “Marc is a good friend of mine, we have just had lunch together and I said I would come to the paddock to support him.

“What a nice man he is and I had so much success for him. Unfortunately I could not win for him at Royal Ascot, but I’m so delighted for him, he’s put so much into the sport.

“I wish my saddle was here all week, but I can’t go back on what I said. I’ve tried to enjoy it and it has been hard work to be honest with you because I’m not used to the eating and drinking and the socialising and pictures and photographs. Everyone has been so kind, but it has been great.”

Beckett admitted the winner had been something of a long-term project.

“This was a bit of a plot, when he won around Kempton in April I think he was our only winner in April. He got four or five pounds for winning there and it just fitted like a glove,” he said.

“We’ll see what the handicapper does next, he’s certainly bred to get a bit further and I wouldn’t mind thinking of that as well. We’ll enjoy today, today was the plan.”

Mickley provided trainer Ed Bethell and jockey Callum Rodriguez with a first Royal Ascot success after completing his hat-trick in the Britannia Stakes.

A winner at Southwell and Doncaster earlier in the year, the three-year-old was among the market principals at 15-2 and after being held up in the middle of three groups of runners, he displayed a smart change of gear to grab the lead.

Skukuza came from out of the pack in an attempt to reel him in, but Mickley was well on top as he passed the post three-quarters of a length clear.

Bethell, who earlier in the week saddled his Sprint Cup hero Regional to finish second in the King Charles III Stakes, said: “It’s a great feeling. I’m just delighted for everyone at home.

“Barry, who has led him up and rides him every day, he’s done a tremendous job on the horse, and Callum got down to a very low weight (8st 11lb), which he never normally does. That took a big effort from him but he had confidence in the horse, so we wanted to keep them together.

“He’s an interesting horse. He does absolutely nothing at home, so I couldn’t tell you where the limit is. He’s got size and scope and he looks the ideal horse to go out to Hong Kong now.

“It is like winning the lottery this race, you can never be confident, so it’s a great day for the whole yard. We are a young team and we’re only just getting started.”

Rodriguez added: “I’m over the moon – it’s the stuff of dreams. We went so close earlier in the week and I’m so glad to get it done.

“It was very smooth for me. I was pretty confident in this horse’s ability and I just wanted to keep it as smooth as possible.

“We got a good run and he was a lot more streetwise today than in his first four starts, so I’m very pleased.”

Wathnan racing, successful earlier in the afternoon with Shareholder in the Norfolk Stakes, doubled up and made it three for the week when English Oak (100-30 favourite) ran away with the Buckingham Palace Stakes.

Up 9lb for a Haydock win before Wathnan bought him, Ed Walker’s four-year-old sprinted clear to prevail by three lengths from Billyjoh.

Walker said: “We believed for a long time he was very good and last year he just wasn’t getting things right in his races. He just wasn’t behaving and getting a bit upset in the stalls.

“Fair play to everyone at home, they’ve all done such a good job and a big thank you to Dave and Sue Ward who owned him up until a few weeks ago, they’ve been huge supporters of my yard and had Starman and have done wonders for my career.

“Richard Brown (of Wathnan) and I go back a long way and when he asked if I could recommend this horse, you shoot from the hip and I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I’m just glad it paid off.

“It was a very tough decision for Dave and Sue and they love their horses. I think it will be bittersweet for them, but they are big into their breeding now and have Starman to support and are increasing their broodmare band – and getting money in makes it work.

“I’ve been banging on about Ascot since he crossed the line here last autumn behind Rohaan, targeting this race or the Wokingham. After his performance at Haydock, the Buckingham Palace was the obvious target.

“It’s been a long plan and there’s been a change of silks, but it’s been great.”