ASCOT, United Kingdom (AFP) – Three days of disappointment for Richard Hughes dissolved in an instant when Sky Lantern carried the British champion jockey to a pulsating victory in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday.
What was billed as a closely-matched affair involving 17 runners became a one-horse race as Hughes scythed through from the rear to win very much as he liked.
So authoritative was Sky Lantern that Hughes gathered up his reins long before the Richard Hannon-trained filly reached the winning post.
The jockey had a hold of Sky Lantern's ear as the combination scored by four lengths from French invader Kenhope, with Just The Judge back in third.
Hughes rode with ice-cool nerves, anchoring the 1,000 Guineas winner at the rear of the field as other fancied runners jostled for a prominent position.
The move paid dividends. As the leaders wilted Hughes picked off his rivals off with the eye of a deadly marksman.
His audacious ride was remarkable for the fact he had failed to enter the hallowed Royal Ascot winner's enclosure for more than 50 races.
"You don't do those things unless the people behind you really trust you," Hughes said. "Richard (Hannon) said go out and do what you're good at, and that makes all the difference."
Sky Lantern is owned by Hong Kong-based Ben Keswick. "This is a very special day for all of us," he said afterwards. "I was shouting so much I lost my voice."
Just The Judge was beaten half a length by Sky Lantern when the pair clashed in the 1,000 Guineas in early May, but fell further behind here.
"She ran a good race so we have to be pleased," said her trainer, Charlie Hills. "I think she wants to go further than a mile now."
Hills had earlier unleashed a two-year-old of rare promise when Kiyoshi, owned by the Qatari Al-Thani family, galloped clean away with the Albany Stakes under jockey Jamie Spencer.
Kiyoshi was last in the early stages before Spencer brought her through to pass her 18 opponents.
Once in front, however, the filly swerved markedly to her right in beating favoured Sandiva by 3?? lengths, with Frankel's half-sister, Joyeuse, back in third.
So visually striking was Kiyoshi that bookmakers immediately installed her as favourite for next year's 1,000 Guineas.
She was a second winner of the week for the Al-Thani family of Qatar after Extortionist annexed the Windsor Castle Stakes on Tuesday.
Aidan O'Brien's powerful Ballydoyle stable enjoyed mixed fortunes but still managed to maintain Ireland's momentum at the five-day meeting.
Battle Of Marengo, heavily backed for the King Edward VII Stakes, was ambushed close home by Hillstar after establishing a clear lead in the home straight.
But Leading Light made amends in the Queen Vase (In Memory of Sir Henry Cecil) to register O'Brien's fourth winner of the week.
All 15 jockeys in the race wore black armbands as a mark of respect for Cecil, the famed British trainer who died 10 days ago.
The Cecil stable had a fancied runner in Disclaimer but the colt, who took the lead rounding the final turn, tired late on after fighting his jockey for most of the two-mile race.
Leading Light, by contrast, got stronger as the race unfolded. He fought off a series of challenges in the home straight before repelling the last of them from Fell Like Dancing with brio.
O'Brien goes into the final day on Saturday as the meeting's leading trainer with four winners. And his son Joseph, who rode Leading Light, shares the lead in the race for the riders' title with three winners.
He is joined on that mark by James Doyle and Johnny Murtagh, who won the Wolverton Handicap aboard Forgotten Voice.
Leading Light's victory also hoisted Ireland's tally to eight winners, which matches that country's best-ever previous haul with one day of the meeting to come.