King Charles and queen celebrate thrilling win for Desert Hero at Royal Ascot

  • Desert Hero is first winner for Charles III at royal meeting
  • 18-1 chance gets better of Valiant King in thrilling finish

Greg Wood at Ascot@Greg_Wood_Thu 22 Jun 2023 10.33 EDT

The value of the new king and queen’s bloodstock interests went up another notch here on Thursday as Desert Hero, a three-year-old bred by the late Queen Elizabeth, gave her son his first winner at the Royal meeting after a neck-and-neck struggle in the closing stages of the King George V Handicap.

Tom Marquand, the winning jockey, brought Desert Hero with a brave run between horses to grab the lead well inside the final furlong, and his mount then held the late challenge of Valiant King by a head.Royal Ascot day three: Dettori win caps historic day for horse racing – as it happenedRead more

Zara Tindall, the king’s niece, was part of the royal party in the winner’s enclosure as the king and queen received the trophy from the Duke of Kent and said the moment provoked mixed feelings for the family.

“It’s bittersweet, isn’t it?” Tindall said. “To think how proud and excited our grandmother would have been, the queen would have been. But to have a winner for Charles and Camilla, to keep that dream alive, was incredible. And what a race, asides all of that.

“It’s a new excitement, isn’t it? Like all those owners who have a horse here, having that dream, that hope, and actually fulfilling it. The horses are the main game here, that’s why we get involved. We love them, the competition – and then the adrenaline when you win is indescribable.”

Desert Hero ridden by Tom Marquand wins the King George V Stakes from Valiant King
Desert Hero ridden by Tom Marquand (right) wins the King George V Stakes from Valiant King. Photograph: David Davies/PA

The late queen had 24 winners at the Royal meeting, the most recent being Tactical, who took the Windsor Castle Stakes in June 2020 when the meeting was staged behind closed doors because of the Covid.

“It’s fantastic, a great honour for all of us, and I’m thrilled they were here to witness it,” William Haggas, Desert Hero’s trainer, said. “Desert Hero wasn’t 6-4 favourite, so I think expectations were relatively low, but hopes were high, and it came good. It was a beautiful ride, a bit of a bob and a weave up the straight, but he made it and fair play to Tom.

“[The king and queen] have been looking forward to Royal Ascot for a long time and they hoped to have as many runners as possible. It’s very important for horse racing, but it’s also important that the king and queen enjoy it, which they clearly appear to do. Long may that continue.”

Marquand, a multiple winner of Group One races around the world, said that success on the 18-1 chance had been “one of my proudest moments in the saddle so far”. He added: “I’ve said it about moments before, that it will be hard to top, but genuinely, this is.

“We all grew up watching Ryan [Moore] win on Estimate and things like that. Royal winners at the royal meeting are extremely special, especially this one. I think this is a poignant one.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *