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Hats off to our Royal Ascot winners 12/06/08

For some people it’s about the fashion, for others it’s the swanky picnics but for those serious about top-class flat racing, no meeting typifies the British flat scene at its very best more perfectly than Royal Ascot.

Over the years, the Overbury stallions have made their own memorable contributions to the world’s most famous meeting, where the two-year-olds do battle for the first Group races of the season and the older horses vie for honours in career-defining clashes.

Opinions differ as to which contests can be seen as ‘stallion-making’ races but few would argue with the fact that the St. James’s Palace Stakes has a great strike rate as a source of future stars of the breeding shed.

In 2003, the race fell to Zafeen, who had already advertised his credentials when finishing three-quarters of a length behind Refuse To Bend in the 2000 Guineas, having also been Group 1-placed as a two-year-old in the Prix Morny when he was again within a length of the winner. At Ascot, Zafeen finally claimed the Group 1 prize he so richly deserved, beating a field that included the future stallions Clodovil, Statue Of Liberty, Hold That Tiger, Monsieur Bond and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Indian Haven.

The following year, it was Proclamation’s turn to shine as the action headed north to York while Ascot’s new stand was being built. His two-and-a-half length Jersey Stakes win was sandwiched  between victory in the Listed Heron Stakes and the highlight of his career,  when he won the Group 1 Sussex Stakes in such style that he was crowned champion three-year-old miler.

It takes an exceptional horse to come back year after year and compete at the very highest level and that’s exactly what Kayf Tara did with back-to-back runs in the Ascot Gold Cup for two wins and a third. He claimed his first victory in 1998, seeing off popular stayer Double Trigger, before running into the money behind Enzeli and G1 Prix du Cadran winner Invermark. He regained his crown the following year, however, when holding off a sustained challenge from Far Cry in the final race of his career and his fifth successive win.

In a 15-race career, he won ten times in total and earned prize-money on every occasion he set foot on the racecourse. Such consistency resulted in Kayf Tara being named champion stayer in three consecutive seasons. Bringing the curtain down on his marvellous career in the spotlight of the Royal Meeting was the most fitting finale for so gifted an athlete.