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Harrington breaks her Ascot duck

 

By Anita Chambers

Alpha Centauri provided Jessica Harrington with a first Royal Ascot success after a brilliant victory in the Coronation Stakes.

Harrington (71) has won many of jump racing's biggest prizes -including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Queen Mother Champion Chase - but was still seeking a first triumph at the showpiece fixture of the Flat season.

Alpha Centauri brought strong claims to the table after claiming Classic glory in last month's Irish 1,000 Guineas and was the 11-4 favourite to follow up in the hands of Colm O'Donoghue.

Veracious and Aim Of Artemis led the field into the home straight, but Alpha Centauri soon loomed up ominously.

Once given her head, the Irish challenger bounded clear for a hugely impressive six-length verdict in a course-record time, with Threading coming through to beat Veracious to the runner-up spot.

Richard Hannon's shock Newmarket Guineas heroine Billesdon Brook was a creditable fourth, but Teppal, winner of the French Guineas for David Simcock, finished down the field.

Harrington said: "She was absolutely amazing. I thought when Colm turned in 'jeepers, he's gone very soon', but the further he went the further he was going away. I couldn't believe it.

"She's a very big filly and on soft ground, she physically can't get her feet out of it. She just floats on that top of the ground.

"I have a lot of people behind me and nice owners who give me nice horses. I've had Ascot winners, but I've never had a Royal Ascot winner and it's fantastic."

Harrington added: "I got very wound up. I was very nervous today. I know she's very good.

"It was nice going into the Irish Guineas very much under the radar. Today was different. She was favourite and we were there to be shot at."

Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family, said: "We were nervous going into the race, not quite knowing where we stood in the links with the form, but we found out today.

"I'll have to talk to Jessie and to the owners, but there is a race in Deauville in the middle of August, the Jacques le Marois, which the family sponsors. We might have to consider that."

Threading's trainer, Mark Johnston, said: "The race wasn't run as we expected as we didn't think there would be a lot of pace on and she was struggling to get in touch, so she has come from quite a long way back. It was an exceptional pace and an exceptional time."

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