Colin Keane got off the mark at Royal Ascot as Villanova Queen swooped to land the Kensington Palace Fillies’ Handicap.
A winner at the big summer showpiece had so far eluded the Classic-winning rider – who is the reigning champion jockey in Ireland. But he was at his very best as he guided Jessica Harrington’s four-year-old to success.
In a typically competitive running of the one-mile handicap, there were plenty in with chances as the 19-strong field rounded the turn for home, with Frankie Dettori’s mount Tamarama looking a real player.
However, the challenge of the Ralph Beckett-trained filly soon petered out and it was left to Villanova Queen to down Daniel and Claire Kubler’s Don’t Tell Claire in the closing stages, with Tarrabb (third) and the Joseph O’Brien-trained pair of Adelaise and Yerwanthere finishing off strongly to finish fourth and fifth.
Harrington’s daughter and assistant, Kate, said: “That was exciting, I thought she had a good chance dropping back from Group and Listed company into a handicap. Albeit her run the last day, if you go back and look at it, she didn’t get the clearest of runs and the time before that the ground was a bit soft in Leopardstown.
“It’s a real credit to the owners, it’s taken a while to get this filly back to what we knew she was before the Irish Guineas last year where she picked up a bit of an injury. It’s just great to her back and show that faith in her, she had a very good run last year behind Homeless Songs in the Guineas trial and we knew this was in her. It’s great now she’s back on track and I’d say onwards and upwards for the rest of the season.”
She added: “Mum’s at Nicky’s (Henderson). She had the sale on Monday and was here yesterday so she’s just taken one day off, she’s back for the next few days. She’ll be celebrating, she’ll have the champagne on ice. There’ll be nothing left!”
Of the runner-up, a proud Claire Kubler said: “It was an incredible run from her, she’s an absolute superstar and we all love her to bits. I thought she might win two out. Then she even got back up to be second as she looked like she might be swallowed up.
“She seems to run well at all the big tracks which is really fortunate, it makes our life easy. It’s back to the drawing board and revisit the options.”