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Love shrugs off break to win Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot

A filly who came of age in front of empty grandstands last year put on a rousing show for 12,000 spectators here on Wednesday, as Love shrugged off a 300-day absence to add the Prince of Wales’s Stakes to her Classic wins in 2020. Audarya, a Breeders’ Cup winner last autumn, hounded her every step of the way inside the final furlong but Aidan O’Brien’s filly kept finding more to fight her off by three-quarters of a length.

That ability to dig deep when an opponent is inching closer is a hallmark of most great racehorses and Love, on this evidence, has it in abundance.

Her determination to hold Audarya and Armory, who had the benefit of a run in May, at bay in the closing stages was palpable, and this is a filly who also had enough speed to win the 1,000 Guineas last year and then sufficient stamina to follow up in the Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks. With her wellbeing now confirmed after a long time away, Love will be a potent card for O’Brien to play as the season unfolds.

“She has all the key attributes of a Galileo,” O’Brien said of Ryan Moore’s mount. “I was watching Ryan’s body language and she was just really waiting for Ryan to grind her and say: ‘Come on.’ I knew she was going to find for him and she gives her all, this filly.

“It is an unbelievable trait to be that tough and she has it in spades and multiplied by 10. Whatever you want, she is there to answer it all the time.”

O’Brien has won two major middle-distance races with fillies within the space of a fortnight, following Snowfall’s romp on rain-softened ground in the Oaks at Epsom 12 days ago, and the obvious question now, ahead of races such as the King George and Arc later in the season, is when or if he will pitch them in against each other.

The stable companions are currently 5-1 joint-favourites for the Arc and around 7-2 for the King George, which remains a possible target for the impressive Derby winner, Adayar. Charlie Appleby’s colt heads the market at 5-2.

“We’ll see how she is when we take her home and she has the options like the King George and the Eclipse,” O’Brien said. “We would think hard about the King George at high summer and if the ground is nice.

“Come the autumn, Snowfall and Love could maybe meet. Snowfall could go for the Irish Oaks [in July] next.

“Love hasn’t had the miles this year running on bad ground. She has had an ideal preparation going into the summer and autumn, she is so versatile and everything is possible. I’m delighted we didn’t run on the bad ground [earlier in the year] so we saved miles on her clock.

“When we were tacking her up, a filly like her would usually be a 50-inch girth, maybe 52-inch, but we put a 52-inch on and it wouldn’t fit so we had to go back for a 54. Obviously, she’s really filled into her chest, a really big, deep-girthed filly. It’s unusual for a filly to have a girth that big.”

Love’s success was O’Brien 75th at the Royal meeting, equalling the career record of Sir Henry Cecil and bringing Sir Michael Stoute’s all-time record of 81 (and hopefully counting) a little closer to hand.

She was also only the second Group One or Grade One winner to be ridden by Moore in the last dozen sent out by Ballydoyle, and got her rider off the mark for the week shortly after Frankie Dettori, Moore’s main rival for the top-jockey prize, got his second win on Indie Angel, at 22-1, in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes.

Dettori will be heavily backed to add another Group One win to his success on Palace Pier on Tuesday when Stradivarius goes to post in Thursday’s Gold Cup, in search of a fourth consecutive win in the meeting’s feature event. Yeats, from 2006 to 2009, is the only horse to have won the Gold Cup four times in the race’s 214-year history.

“I’m not lying, I’m nervous,” Dettori said after his win on Indie Angel. “I’m not going to get over-excited, I’ve got a job to do.

“There are more runners than I thought, and then there’s the question mark of the rain [forecast overnight], so there’s a lot of things to worry about, and he still has to turn up.

“I’m very pleased with the horse, his homework and demeanour has been good, but he’s trying to do something that only Yeats has done, win four Gold Cups, so I’m not going to count my chickens yet. Me and him have got to do our best and get ourselves over the line.”

There was a controversial opening to the final race on the card, the Kensington Palace Handicap, as Silvestre De Sousa could be heard telling the starter not to let the field go as he was struggling to remove a hood from Stunning Beauty, the third-favourite.

But the starter let them go anyway, however, and Stunning Beauty was left standing until her rider finally removed the hood and eased her into a canter, many lengths behind the rest of the field.

Several major bookies, including Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral, were subsequently reported to be refunding all bets on the 7-1 chance.

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