Defoe scores in Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot
Last Updated: 22/06/19 4:46pm
Defoe followed up his Coronation Cup triumph of three weeks ago with a hard-fought victory in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
A quality field of eight runners went to post for the Group Two contest and there was real drama right from the off, with last year's Derby hero Masar - making his first appearance since his Epsom success - stumbling badly after coming out of the stalls and impeding the Czech raider Nagano Gold.
Defoe raced in midfield for much of the mile-and-a-half journey, but was being ridden along by Andrea Atzeni rounding the home turn, at which stage the strong-travelling Mirage Dancer looked set to provide Sir Michael Stoute with a 12th Hardwicke success.
However, Roger Varian's grey, the 11-4 favourite, really found his stride in the straight and after hitting the front over a furlong out, he found enough for pressure to prevail by half a length.
Nagano Gold ran a tremendous race to fill the runner-up spot following his early setback, which virtually brought him to a standstill, with Mirage Dancer just a length away in third.
Masar was not disgraced on his long-awaited return, travelling well for much of the way before weakening out of contention from the furlong pole to finish fifth.
Varian said: "I thought it was a strong race on paper, and he took his form from Epsom forward, which was nice.
"I'm grateful to Sheikh Obaid and delighted for him that he has got on the scoresheet, and I'm delighted for Andrea, too.
"He is just a lovely horse. He is very straightforward, tries and relaxes and is getting better with age. He is a joy to train. I thought he was very capable of mixing it with the best and the horse is warming to the season nicely.
"Hopefully we can bring him back in one piece for the King George. It is up to other people to have their opinion, but I have my opinion of the horse which is very high, and he is backing that up with his performances.
"We are excited for the rest of the season."