Top Australian colt Star Witness had to settle for another minor placing at the 300th Royal Ascot Carnival when he finished a game third in the Golden Jubilee Stakes (1200m) in the early hours of Sunday morning AEST.
The Danny O’Brien-trained three-year-old looked the winner of the $610,000 Group 1 300m from home, but had no answer for the powerful finish of Society Rock and Monsieur Chevalier on the soft track.
The effort followed a luckless second in the 1000m King’s Stand Stakes on the opening day of the Carnival, but instead of being disappointed, O’Brien said he couldn’t help but be proud of the son of Starcraft.
“Both of his runs have been outstanding,” O’Brien said. “Without winning, he’s certainly given us plenty to be proud of.
“Most things have gone right, obviously the weather’s something we can’t control, but we’ve turned up with the horse in good order. He’s travelled well and he’s raced well.”
A winner of the Blue Diamond Stakes and Coolmore Stud Stakes at Group 1 level over 1200m in Australia, Star Witness just struggled to run out the testing six furlongs at Royal Ascot on a wet track.
Unlike Wednesday morning when he raced without cover throughout after missing the start, jockey Steven Arnold found cover aboard Star Witness after cutting towards the inside with the bulk of the field and produced his charge at the 400m.
The heavily-backed 4/1 chance, backed in from 6/1, surged a length clear at the 300m and looked the winner, but within 100m it was obvious he was in trouble with 25/1 shots unwinding either side of him.
The James Fanshawe-trained Society Rock, runner-up to the Aussie-bred Starspangledbanner in last year’s Golden Jubilee, charged through on the inside to get home by a half-length from Richard Hannon’s Monsieur Chevalier.
Star Witness was a further length and a quarter away, a head in advance of the Roger Varian-trained Elzaam (12/1), a son of Aussie supersire Redoute’s Choice.
Arnold would have preferred to wait a little longer before producing Star Witness, but said the track was more a contributing factor behind the defeat than when he was forced to make his run.
“When I got cover, he was beautiful for a couple of furlongs then the thing in front of me was gone and I was going to have to be stopping him (if I didn’t go), so I came out and flowed on him,” the Cox Plate-winning jockey said.
“He got to the front and I think on the testing ground, the ground’s soft, it just makes it bit more of a test up the last bit. I think that’s probably just cost us on the day.”
Star Witness may yet return home to stud duties at Widden Stud a Group 1 winner with O’Brien entertaining the idea of a start in the remaining English leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, the $610,000 Group 1 July Cup (1200m) at Newmarket on July 9.