Victorian three-year-old Star Witness produced an amazing performance to finish second in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) at Royal Ascot (UK) on Tuesday night (AET) after beginning slowly and settling near to last in the big field of 19 horses.
The Danny O’Brien-trained colt failed by only a half-length to become the fifth Australian to win the coveted sprint in the past decade after victories to Choisir (2003), Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007) and Scenic Blast (2009).
Locally-trained plunge horse Prohibit, backed from 14/1 to 7/1, showed the benefit of a sharper beginning to hold off Star Witness (6/1) in 59.5secs and deny Victorian jockey Steven Arnold a second King’s Stand after saluting with Scenic Blast two years ago.
Star Witness, who will be retired to Widden Stud in NSW after the Royal Ascot Carnival, lost no admirers after failing to gain a suitable trail into the race from the 600m mark.
O’Brien declared the performance a “very brave effort” after pre-race plans went out the window with the Starcraft colt’s tardy beginning.
“It certainly wasn’t our plan to be so far back in the race….it’s not a race that, generally, you can win it from that far back,” he explained.
“Steven just would have liked something to take him into the race, he made to make all his own going from three furlongs (600m) out
“He just got nothing to drag him to the winner.”
Star Witness is now almost certain to back up in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes (1200m) at Royal Ascot on Saturday night (AET) with O’Brien desperate to break his Royal Ascot duck. Fellow Victorian three-year-old colt Hinchinbrook is a confirmed starter.
Steering Prohibit to victory for trainer Robert Cowell was former jumps jockey Jim Crowley who celebrated his biggest moment in the sport with the Group 1 triumph.
Third across the line, a length from the winner, was Hong Kong mare Sweet Sanette (16/1) who shared the lead with Hungarian speedster Overdose who finished fourth and gave a great sight for her punters.
“I was pleased to get a lovely position throughout and he felt really genuine when he hit the front,” Crowley said. “He’s been so consistent and deserves this.”
As the winner of the King’s Stand, leg four of the 2011 Global Sprint Challenge, Prohibit is now eligible to race for a $600,000 bonus on offer for international Challenge winners in the Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m) at Flemington this November.
Click here to view a replay of the King’s Stand Stakes courtesy of At The Races.