The going got tough but the tough couldn't get going as Japan's Deirdre succumbed to inclement weather to finish sixth in the 750,000 pounds Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot on Wednesday.
Not even the tried and trusted hands of veteran jockey Yutaka Take could save Deirdre in the pounding rain on this afternoon, when Lanfranco Dettori, aboard second-choice Crystal Ocean, once again wielded magic to upset the prohibitive betting favorite, the Aidan O'Brien-trained, Ryan Moore-ridden Magical.
Deirdre, the 5-year-old mare trained by Mitsuru Hashida who went off at odds of 33 to 1 in a field of eight, came home almost 14 lengths behind the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Crystal Ocean, who passed the winning post in 2 minutes, 10.25 seconds over the 1,990 meters on very soft going. Magical trailed Crystal Ocean by a length and a quarter.
As fit as Deirdre – who was looking to become the first Japanese-trained horse to win a race at Royal Ascot – was, Hashida lamented the downpour that came beating down shortly before post time, which his team believes led to the unexpectedly lopsided result.
"The rain right before the race really hurt us," the trainer said of the Harbinger daughter, who was making her first start since the April 28th QEII Cup at Hong Kong's Sha Tin Racecourse.
"It wasn't raining in the morning so I thought the weather would hold up. She was relaxed and was in very good condition. She got off to a good start, traveled where we wanted her to be but the pace fried her. She just ran out of gas in the end and it got tough for her."
"A very strong field we were in, but she left everything out there. We couldn't have asked for more out of her. I'll speak with the owner about where to race her next."
Another O'Brien entry, Hunting Horn, led the way as expected with Deirdre, who got a good jump out of her stall, following mid-pack as the merciless rain continued. Deirdre kept up until the last turn, where she began to fade as Dettori pushed his mount to the fore.
Take tugged at the rein with all his might but the gap with the frontunners would not close. Like Hashida, the 50-year-old rider shook his head at the notorious English weather that killed off any outside chance Deirdre had in a race that featured a combined eight Grade 1 titles among the top five betting favorites.
Deirdre, out of the Special Week dam Reizend, has received an invite to the Sept. 14 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin.
"She was in very good shape considering how much traveling she has done abroad," Take said, referring to Deirdre's season that saw her bounce from Japan to Dubai to Hong Kong in a space of two months from February to April.
"The course was close to dry when we first arrived at the track but the rain that started coming down before the start was absolutely brutal. I still thought she might be able to handle it but I guess it was too much for her."
"She broke well and felt good during the trip and all the way to the final bend. She gave it everything she had but ran out of steam. Sixth place is something we can be happy about because we were up against some tough competition and it's not like she was never in the race."
"Her performance should give the other Japanese horses racing overseas something to look forward to. I'm convinced the day will come when a Japanese horse wins under the bright lights at Royal Ascot."
Crystal Ocean stalked Hunter Horn during the wet, wet journey before making a strong move heading into the homestretch. With two furlongs left, the 5-year-old horse stepped out into the lead and never looked back. 4-year-old filly Magical tried to overtake him with Moore pushing her and pushing her down the straight, but Crystal Ocean held on for his maiden top-level victory in 15 career starts.
Dettori, a massive fan favorite in Japan, gushed about his partner following his fourth win in the Prince of Wales's Stakes, his first since 2011 with Rewilding.
"I knew he stays really well so I kicked him early and I didn't hear anything coming. He was still full of running and I didn't feel she (Magical) would get past me. Everything went to plan," the Italian said.
"He's an ultra-consistent horse, he's a heavyweight of the sport, never runs a bad race. I was concerned about the rain because all his best form is on firm ground, and the race went exactly as I thought.
"I thought I'd better kick round the turn and use my stamina, and in fairness he stuck his head out and galloped right to the line."