Shaquille swoops late to net Commonwealth crown

Shaquille produced a remarkable performance to provide Julie Camacho with her first winner at Royal Ascot in the Commonwealth Cup.

The three-year-old arrived on the crest of a wave having won his last four races but all hope looked to have gone when he reared up on leaving the stalls.

Three-time champion jockey Oisin Murphy did not panic though, and by halfway he was back in contention but it remained to be seen if his early exertions had taken their toll.

The hot favourite Little Big Bear hit the front on entering the final furlong but Shaquille (9-1) was creeping into it and when Murphy asked for everything, there was still plenty left.

Camacho, and her partner Steve Brown, were registering their first Group One victory as Shaquille came home a length and a quarter clear, with 66-1 shot Swingalong in third.

Brown admitted he thought Shaquille’s tardy start would prove costly, but praised Murphy’s patient ride.

He said: “I’m just thrilled, he missed the start by so many lengths and I thought that could be it. It actually suited him, he settled better and Oisin was patient and brought him through stylishly I thought.

“What a lovely performance, he keeps finding a bit so it’s serious stuff now. He’s probably and a six-and-a-half furlong horse, which is perfect for here.

“He just relaxed and raced in a rhythm but all of that was far from the plan! It worked out well in the end.”

Murphy also felt Shaquille’s chance had gone after giving his rivals a head start.

He said: “(When we broke from the stalls) I was thinking maybe that was the race over. He behaved in there, I had Craig Witherford to help and just as the starter let the stalls open, he went into the air and took his time coming back to the ground, and it’s very hard to do that in a six-furlong race and win.

“I got to the back of Ryan (Moore, on Little Big Bear) quite easily, without having to fully go for him. I had to sustain an effort from quite a long way out, so it really was a tremendous task that he managed to overcome.”

Murphy was taking over from James Doyle, who had ridden Shaquille in his last two starts but was committed to the unplaced Noble Style this time.

He added: “I feel sorry for James Doyle, this would have been his mount today and we are best of friends, so I owe him one.

“Going to the start and everything was important. James said to trust him (Shaquille), that he would give you the feeling that he might run off, but in fact actually he was very well behaved when I did give him his head.

“He’s a very well bred horse, by Charm Spirit and out of a Galileo mare, and he’s quite lightly raced, so it was great to get on him today and thank you very much to the connections.”

Murphy was riding his first winner at this year’s Royal Ascot, having missed last year when he was serving a 14-month suspension.

Asked what it meant to get on the scoresheet, he said: “Sheikh Fahad (of Murphy’s retained owner Qatar Racing) will be delighted because I’ve hit the crossbar a couple of times this week and to win a Group One is a fantastic feeling.”

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