Eldar Eldarov justified his strong home reputation by snatching victory in a thrilling finish to the G2 Queen’s Vase Stakes.
The unbeaten colt joined Zechariah on the line and, after a considerable wait, the judge finally called David Egan’s mount the winner, much to the delight of favourite backers.
After breaking slowly, Egan was forced to hold the 5/2 market leader up towards the back of the field but the splits came early in the straight and the son of Dubawi made up ground hand over fist to reel in the leader in the final stride.
It was heartache for Zechariah (20/1) and jockey Colin Keane, with Hafit (9/1) just a neck off the front pair in third.
It was a 10th Royal Ascot success for trainer Roger Varian, who said: “The ground was a concern because Eldar Eldarov is so inexperienced – we had so little racecourse experience to go on.
“I thought we were a good winner before the line and a good winner after the line, but I thought we got the bob wrong, which sometimes can go against you. I’m delighted for KHK, Sheikh Khalid and everyone involved. They are supporting the industry very strongly, they are supporting me… days like this are very special to all of us, and to get the horse home in front with a lot of expectations is very satisfying.
“The horse just didn’t thrive in the spring. There was a lot of chat about him in the winter – he’d won at Nottingham in a similar style as the Derby winner – those end of October maidens, look at the horses that come out of them. So of course we were excited about him, hoping to get him to a Derby trial, which we couldn’t do. We went to Newcastle – if he was to go to Royal Ascot, he had to run, but I think he was only 90 per cent. That was a strong novice – the third won by nine lengths off 86 next time and we gave him 7lb. Then we were unsure, King Edward VII Stakes or Queen’s Vase, and the ground we were unsure about as well. I just thought, on fast ground, he looks like a horse laden with lots of stamina, so let’s go the distance. And he got every inch of it – David [Egan] said he couldn’t pull him up. Who knows what his future holds in terms of trip, but he obviously stays very well. There is a lot to come from this horse and I think his best days are ahead of him.
“He put in one hell of a performance and you would think looking down the road that he could develop into a St Leger horse. Even looking to next year, hopefully he can keep improving.”
David Egan said: “I have never hit the line so strong in a mile and six-furlong race and ended up by the St James’s Palace Stakes start. Eldar Eldarov was full of running. They went a nice gallop and everything worked out well.
“I am delighted to get his head in front and it’s all down to my sponsor Shaikh Khalid. He is a man who from the beginning started having racehorses and said he wanted a stallion. To win a race like that, he has done that now and I am over the moon for him.
“I was happy to sit mid-division. I was hoping I could sit one off the rail. I was very lucky to be able to follow the Godolphin horse. I then switched out and it was just a case of winding this lad up. I was happy he ran in this race as I think stamina is his biggest attribute. He ran well there on quick ground and we always thought he was a horse who would also like ease in the ground – there is a lot more to come.”
Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of KHK Racing said: “We were worried about the ground. He is a special horse to me because I chose him. We saw the horse and I liked him. He was so special from day one. Getting into a Group race was a concern, and I didn’t want to push the horse to the limit.
“Eldar Eldarov showed he can do better, and he will do better. My brother was sure we had won, but I was blinded so I couldn’t be sure. It was a very tough one.”
Martyn Meade said of Zechariah: “A nod! Can you believe it? A mile and six furlongs and you think crikey, I don’t need to lose by that! That’s racing for you!
“We thought for a minute we’d won it, but we were on the stands and could not really tell, we were too far away. It must have been a difficult one to call, a dead-heat would have been preferable.
“We have been waiting to run him over this sort of distance and have been building up to this. The betting did not show it, but we had a lot of faith coming into this and he looked as though he’d been well placed at one stage.
“Today was a bit of an experiment to see if our judgment had been right and he would get the trip. It opens up a whole new array of opportunities. He could have Cup hopes in time. “Travelling to Australia could be an option with Aquis involved [Australian stud farm]. They have horses with us to run them here, but he might be better there in time.”