Gold-Fun will not continue his European campaign and will return to Hong Kong to be prepared for another tilt at the December internationals, despite his gutsy second in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday.
Richard Gibson-trained Gold-Fun (Christophe Soumillon) charged into second late in the 1,200m Group One, but Henry Candy’s four-year-old Twilight Son (Ryan Moore) had a neck advantage on the line, with third Signs Of Blessing, fourth Magical Memory and fifth Suedois all within a half length of the winner.
Yet while Twilight Son’s connections now have the July Cup on their agenda, Gold-Fun will not press on to Newmarket.
“No, we will head back home for a holiday,” Gibson said immediately post-race. “We are not even tempted to press on, he has had a long season and has done enough. We can aim him at the Hong Kong Sprint in December.”
The giant chestnut seemed to stumble out of the gates and was caught in an awkward position when the sprint went on before finding his rhythm late, seemingly relishing Ascot’s undulating track and the stiff uphill finish as Gibson had predicted pre-race.
But the trainer also reported that his Belgian jockey believed he could have won under different circumstances.
“Actually, Christophe told me after the race that if the race had been in Hong Kong , Gold-Fun would have won – he would have been able to use the stick more,” he said, referring to the stricter whip rules in effect in England as opposed to Hong Kong. “It was very, very tight at the end – we missed by a whisker, which is disappointing, but he is a fantastic horse.”
“It is a relief professionally when you travel a horse all this way to the other side of the world, from Hong Kong to England, and you see them run to their rating. He probably isn’t the same horse he was last year, he’s not quite at his best, but for him to do what he did today is terrific. We are immensely proud of the horse, happy for Hong Kong and the stable.”
For Candy, Twilight Son’s Diamond Jubilee was the trainer’s first Royal Ascot win since taking the Royal Hunt Cup with Pipedreamer in 1979 and he admitted it had been a tough journey to the sprint feature.
“He’s a strong character, this one,” Candy said. “He has a mind of his own, and after his run at York I realised he needed a lot of work and so I have been quite hard on him. That showed today – he definitely stayed on well enough at the finish!”