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ASCOT, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND – After running a well-beaten second in this race last year, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Afaak turned the tables on Wednesday, getting his blue and white-striped silks up in the shadow of the wire to nip Clon Coulis and clinch Royal Hunt Cup Handicap glory at the Royal Ascot meet at Ascot Racecourse.
Breaking cleanly from post 13 under Jim Crowley at 30/1 stateside odds in his 2019 debut, Afaak was near the forefront of the innermost bunch as the field split into two groups across the lane. Still in the clear at the halfway point while still near the lead, Afaak began slowly moving ahead and was the prime contender by the time the field hit the final furlong marker.
Just as he hit the furlong pole, the strong-running mare Clon Coulis threw down a strong challenge and drew alongside the Charles Hills-trained Afaak. The two were noses apart as they hit the wire, with a photo needed to determine that it was Afaak’s snout just a tip ahead in a final time of 1:42.36 for the mile-long event.
“Afaak did it well and Charlie has done a great job with the horse,” Crowley said. “This has been Afaak’s target. He relaxed well and it went like clockwork. He was in front a long way out as my leaders on the stands’ side dropped away.”
Raising Sand took third, 2 lengths behind the top pair. The rest of the 28-horse field crossed thusly: Stylehunter, Kynren, Roc Angel, Vale Of Kent, Red Starlight, So Beloved, Mordin, War Glory, What’s The Story, Beringer, Chief Ironside, Key Victory, Zwayyan, Mitchum Swagger, Chilean, New Graduate, Robin Of Navan, Circus Couture, Comin’ Through, Zhui Feng, Petrus, King’s Field, Cardsharp, Settle For Bay, and Glendevon.
Afaak’s win was his first since Crowley piloted him to victory at York on May 17, 2018. The 5-year-old gelded son of Oasis Dream now carries a record of 15-4-2-1.
“We gelded him during the winter – sometimes that is the best thing for a colt,” Hills said. “We can now start looking for some races out of handicap company. We wanted to run him a couple of weeks ago, but he just didn’t look quite right so we backed off.”
Afaak returned $64.40 to win and $13.60 to place, Raising Sand brought back $4 to place, and Breden paid $5 to place.
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