Success for Motakhayyel as Royal Ascot 2020 gets underway

The Buckingham Palace Handicap over seven furlongs was the first contest of Royal Ascot 2020, which is being held behind closed doors for the first time ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was the familiar blue and white silks of owner Hamdan Al Maktoum that came out on top as 14/1 chance Motakhayyel took the honours for trainer Richard Hannon and jockey Jim Crowley.

The lightly-raced four-year-old came with a strong challenge entering the final furlong and, at the finish, was the length and a quarter winner from Jack’s Point with another length back to Glen Shiel in third.

“That’s it – the rest of the meeting is cancelled!” said a jubilant Richard Hannon.

“It’s great. They’ve done so well to have the meeting. The fact that the trainers are the only ones here – it’s exactly the same. It is still Royal Ascot. There aren’t 60,000 people here, but maybe there are more people at home watching and paying attention than there ever have been. It’s fantastic, in what has been a very gloomy few months. It looks like sport is coming back, in the right way, racing is adapting and we are showing that we can adapt to new regulations and so on.

“He won last year at the July meeting, which is another flat track, which is what he needs. We took him to Kempton three weeks ago. I wanted to go to Newmarket to the race Ouzo won, but we agreed not to go there in case the ground was a little bit fast and it just stumped him up a bit for here. He had to have a race – he’s massive and he needed that. We would think about something like the Bunbury Cup or a handicap at Goodwood. He didn’t appear to have the movement to be a Group horse last year, but he might be – he’s not getting any younger and he knows what the game is about, but he’s still enthusiastic.”

Jim Crowley added: “The race went lovely, obviously dropping back to seven furlongs was ideal for his first run of the year, he picked up well.

“He was behind the bridle for the first furlong. When I got a gap, he picked up well.

“It is just on the slow side of good. This is a good ground horse and he handled it fine.”

1.15pm Buckingham Palace Handicap

1 MOTAKHAYYEL [drawn 26] Richard Hannon 4-9-03 Jim Crowley 14/1

2 Jack’s Point [22] William Muir 4-9-01 Martin Dwyer 66/1

3 Glen Shiel [10] Archie Watson 6-9-05 Hollie Doyle 7/1

4 Cliffs Of Capri [27] Jamie Osborne 6-9-01 Dougie Costello 20/1

6th Royal Ascot win for trainer Richard Hannon

7th Royal Ascot win for jockey Jim Crowley

23 ran

Non-Runner: 16 Lethal Lunch (Going)

Time: 1m 26.19s

Distances: 1 ¼, 1, ½,

Tote Win: £18.30; Places: £5.60, £14.70, £2.70 Exacta: £971.00

Daarik 7/2 Fav (19th)

Click here for audio interviews with Richard Hannon and Jim Crowley: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access2/index.php?a=UmFjZW5ld3M=&b=31554