ASCOT, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND – Despite his maiden status, trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Southern Hills fought like a game pro late, fending off challenges from multiple foes late to win Wednesday’s Windsor Castle Stakes at the Royal Ascot meet at Ascot Racecourse.
Breaking sharply from post 14 under Ryan Moore as the 5/1 stateside favorite, Southern Hills was well-placed early as much of the field grouped together toward the inner rail. Wheels On Fire opted for the lone wolf role and held a strong early lead while running close to the outer rail.
With just under 2 furlongs remaining, Wheels On Fire began to grow leg-weary, allowing the field to close in on him. Symbolize (from the center) and Southern Hills (still inside) led the cavalry charge, and with a 1/2-furlong remaining, Southern Hills took command. Digging deep to keep Symbolize and Platinum Star at bay, Southern Hills crossed with a 1/2-length advantage in a final time of 1:02.99 for the 5-furlong sprint.
“Southern Hills is a lovely colt who had run two very good races prior to today,” Moore said. “He has loads of speed and he has a super action. He was in front early enough, but he wasn’t for passing.”
Platinum Star crossed second ahead of Glasvegas, with Symbolize weakening to fourth late. The rest of the field crossed thusly: Illusionist, Summer Sands, Electric Ladyland, Taxiwala, Red Epaulette, Rayong, Wheels On Fire, Bill Neigh, Temple Of Heaven, Dylan De Vega, Karak, Iffraaz, Iva Reflection, Charlemaine, Paper Star, Foolish Humor, and Better The Devil.
Ivatheengine, Lady Quickstep, and Show Me Show Me were non-runners – the latter having broken free of her rider and running the course solo while the field was loading into the gates.
Southern Hills’ win improved his record to 3-1-1-0 for his owners, the Coolmore triumvirate of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derek Smith. His sire is Gleneagles.
“He’s a fast horse,” O’Brien said. “The Gleneagles offspring are fast and they are brave, which are two massive things in a horse. That’s evident in his stock so far. I should have thought that 5 or 6 furlongs would be his trip, because he’s got so much speed.”
Southern Hills returned $13.60 to win and $4 to place, Platinum Star brought back $7.20 to place, and Glasvegas paid $19.20 to place.