Aidan O’Brien crowned QIPCO Royal Ascot Leading Trainer

Ballydoyle’s Merchant Navy lands the big sprint at Royal Ascot on Saturday. (Picture: Mark Cranham)

Ballydoyle handler Aidan O’Brien was crowned the QIPCO Royal Ascot Leading Trainer for the ninth time at the Royal Meeting thanks to four winners last week.

Newmarket trainer John Gosden also had four winners, but O’Brien had one more second than Gosden, thereby claiming the award on countback. O’Brien’s winners this week were Kew Gardens in the Group 2 Queen’s Vase, Hunting Horn in the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes, Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes winner Magic Wand and Merchant Navy in Saturday’s feature race, the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes. O’Brien now has 65 winners at the Royal Meeting in total.

After being presented with the award, O’Brien said: “We are delighted really. It’s tough, very competitive racing. Merchant Navy is a great horse. He was at a big weight disadvantage today, but it was great for him to win and we couldn’t be happier really. We had plenty of races that we didn’t win, but we were privileged and delighted to win a few. It’s competitive racing at Royal Ascot. No matter what race you run a horse in, it is always tough to win and very competitive, but that’s what makes it special. Don’t be under any illusions, this is very tough racing.”

Rosegreen trainers O’Brien and John Grogan made winning starts to the week when successful at Naas on Monday evening. The latter sent out his first winner since October 2012 when Rapid Reaction, a 5/1 shot, landed the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Handicap under Andrew Slattery.

The winner is a half-sister to the smart Katla which was a dual listed race winner for Grogan. Typically, O’Brien featured among the winners and he won the evening’s feature when his son Donnacha partnered 9/4 joint-favourite Dali to a cosy success in the Listed Midsummer Sprint Stakes. The pair followed up when 6/1 chance Darkness Falls ran out an even easier winner of the 7f handicap.

Tim Doyle possibly regards Sligo as his lucky track and the Moyne-man was on the mark with 6/1 chance Krispen in the Taylor Engineering Median Auction Race on Tuesday evening. Ronan Whelan rode the winner and Doyle who was one of the few that welcomed the rain that fell in the hours before the race.

Aidan O’Brien was out of luck at Royal Ascot on Friday afternoon, but it didn’t take long for the Ballydoyle handler to make his presence felt at Limerick that evening as his newcomer Fleeting landed the second contest on the card, the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Fillies Maiden.

The debutante was steered to victory by 2017 Epsom Derby-winning jockey Padraig Beggy and his mount, by Coolmore stallion Zoffany, battled back gamely to see off Joseph O’Brien’s Vallambrosa close home.

He rounded off a successful week when Seamie Heffernan-partnered 7/2 joint-favourite Curly to win the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden at Gowran Park on Sunday.