Joseph O’Brien secured his first Royal Ascot winner as a trainer as State Of Rest led from pillar-to-post in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Already a Group One winner in America, Australia and France, the Starspangledbanner colt was last seen finishing a close-up third when bidding to bag a first top-level prize on European soil in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.
With the fast-improving Bay Bridge, Japanese raider Shahryar and a previous winner of the race in Lord North in opposition, State Of Rest was a 5-1 shot and proved his class under Shane Crosse.
Sent straight to the lead, the four-year-old steadily raised the tempo and had seen off the challenge of Dubai Sheema Classic winner Shahryar early in the home straight.
Ryan Moore delivered 10-11 favourite Bay Bridge with what looked like a well-timed run, but try as he might, he could never quite get on terms with State Of Rest who found plenty in front to prevail by a length.
O’Brien won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes as a jockey 10 years ago aboard So You Think, trained by his father Aidan.
He said: “We knew coming here today that we had a live chance of winning the race and I’m just pleased that the horse has proved himself. Shane gave him a marvellous ride, he has only ridden a handful of races here. He grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck.
“It is a huge day, I’m very proud of everyone. We have a huge team at home and I’m so proud of them.
“It’s very special. This is what it is all about. We love the game, we are born and bred into the game. It is all we know. To have a big winner here is what we do it for.”
He went on: “We thought that if we could get a lead in the race we had a really big chance to win, we got a really good start and after a furlong we were comfortable.
“The race was setting up and I think Shane got the fractions perfect, the horse was very genuine and very tough – which he always is. I’m very proud of both of them.
“I was quite relaxed watching the race and it was going as I hoped it would, which does not happen very often in racing! A lot of work goes into training a winner and this is my first Royal Ascot winner, so it’s very special.”
A delighted Crosse said: “For this horse at four years of age to be doing this, it’s just a delight to be a part of him. To be as good as he is and be a jockey’s dream, he does what you want and there’s no quirks about him.
“If he performs, he wins. When I turned in and I started picking up I had plenty of horse left so I thought something would have to chase me to beat me and nothing did. He’s won so well.”
Sir Michael Stoute said of Bay Bridge: “The race didn’t pan out brilliantly for him, but he ran a very big race. We are absolutely delighted. He’s run a big race. We didn’t know about the ground because we had not run him on that ground before, but that didn’t inconvenience him. No problem there.
“We will have a think. We can stick at 10 (furlongs) or go 12. No decision for a little while. We are not going to decide now. He is in all the big races.”
Bay Bridge is co-owned by James Wigan and Ballylinch Stud, who like Stoute were proud of his effort in defeat.
Wigan said: “We just thought the winner got the run of the race and he was in a slightly impossible position. He ran a really good race.”
Ballylinch’s John O’Connor added: “He ran a really good race and we are really happy with him. He is a Group One horse. We will leave any plans to Sir Michael. We will get him home and he will assess how he is.
“Some of the races come up quite quickly so we will let him decide where he wants to run him next. He will aim at all those mile-and-a-quarter races. Congratulations to the winner.”
Lord North lost any chance of victory at the start as he was still blindfolded when the stalls opened, conceding plenty of ground and although he made up the distance, those early efforts told in the finish.
The stewards inquired into the incident noting Frankie Dettori’s explanation that the blind had got caught in the bridle, resulting in him taking a number of attempts to remove it.