The Ridler caused a 50-1 upset as Richard Fahey won a dramatic running of the Norfolk Stakes for the second successive year.
Following on from Perfect Power, who went on to win a couple of Group Ones and holds leading claims in the Commonwealth Cup on Friday, The Ridler was harder to fancy having finished only third at Beverley last time out.
On board was Paul Hanagan, who earlier in the season lost his long-held job as Fahey’s stable jockey to Oisin Orr, but it was a case of friends reunited.
The Ridler was outpaced early on as Walbank, Bakeel and The Antarctic were all prominent.
Aidan O’Brien’s The Antarctic, a brother to Battaash, was the first to drop away as Walbank attempted to see them off, but Hanagan was just beginning his move.
As The Ridler hit the front, though, he began to drift markedly to his left, hampering both Crispy Cat and Brave Nation with a stewards’ inquiry called.
However, as the winning distance was a length and three-quarters to Walbank it was perhaps hard to argue the best horse did not win and the placings remained unaltered.
For Fahey, who had to rule Clearpoint, one of the ante-post favourites for the race, out earlier in the week, all was well that ended well.
He said: “You’d have to say it was a bit of a surprise. But I didn’t think he was a 40-1 shot, genuinely I didn’t.”
When pointed out he was 50-1, he added: “So he drifted after I backed him then!
“He is a good, hardy horse. We had him in the Coventry and we had a good, long chat about it all. Clearpoint was taken out of the Norfolk, so we decided to go here.
“You need a good six-furlong horse to win over five here, especially the pace they went. I’m delighted.
“Clearpoint just had a dirty scope. He is a horse we like a lot, but I’m not sure he would have beaten this guy on today’s form.”
Asked about Hanagan riding for him again, Fahey said: “It is great. He was happy. I’m happy. The owner was delighted, so everything is good.
“It wasn’t really a change around of jockeys, it was bringing a young guy in. Paul would still ride for us and he has ridden for us today. You have to look at the future.”
On plans for his winner, Fahey said: “He is quite a quick horse and the route that perfect Power went – the Morny. We’d have to think something like that, because he will have a Group Two penalty and you’d have to go Group One now.
“Paul said he got a bit lonely and he wandered across the track. If we were placed, I’d have been delighted.
“It is a tough race to win, so to win it twice is fantastic.”
Hanagan said: “There’s a lot of emotions going through me at the minute.
“I’m delighted to ride this winner for Richard Fahey and the owners – I’m going to enjoy the moment.
“I have had so many setbacks with injuries and lots of other things. I’m here again in the winner’s enclosure at Royal Ascot and it is tremendous.
“I’m just absolutely delighted. It is the best way to get things going to ride a winner at Ascot. We have had so many good days and it is just great to add another one to it.
“I’m freelance now, so it is good to get that big winner on the board again and get things going. It is quite tough for freelancers, so just to get that today was huge. It was emotional.
“My two lads are grown up now and they appreciate it. They have been coming home and asking ‘any winners today Dad?’. Now I can go back and say, ‘Yeah, Royal Ascot’.”
Owner Steve Bradley explained the colt’s name was inspired by his unusual facial markings and a DC Comics villain.
He said: “It is a reverse question mark. The Riddler has loads of question marks, including reverse and as soon as he was born, it was a no-brainer. Weatherbys didn’t like it with two D’s, so we settled for one and the rest is history.
“Weatherbys didn’t like the two D’s because they didn’t want to take on a copyright infringement. They obviously got a sweat on. I think DC Comics have more money than I have!”
Walbank is trained by David Loughnane, whose Go Bears Go was second to Perfect Power 12 months ago.
“It’s last year all over again, the horse has done very well and I couldn’t have asked any more of him,” Loughnane said.
“It’s just deja vu, the horse has done very well and he’s run his race. I don’t know if he could have done anything different but that’s racing.
“It’s hard to say (if he’d have won), we were out in front and he may have got a little bit lonely as the winner’s come on the outside but he’s come a long way across the track. He’s a superstar, we’ve very proud of him. He’s done us all proud.”
Michael O’Callaghan, the trainer of Crispy Cat, was left frustrated with the outcome.
“He should have won,” he said. “It is plain and simple. Silvestre (de Sousa) said he would have won. He never had a clear run through the race, even from the middle way through the race, and then he got wiped out by the winner when he did get out and was coming through.
“It wasn’t the first time he had to check, and he has run on again so he should have won, unfortunately.”
De Sousa added: “We got a wipe out from the winner, it made the difference. We would have won.”