The all-conquering stable of Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien recorded their only victory in Newbury’s Group 1 Lockinge Stakes back in 2003 when Hawk Wing spreadeagled a field of top class milers. But the master of Ballydoyle has had to wait a further 15 years to follow up in the Al Shaqab-sponsored contest, this time courtesy of the four-year-old filly Rhododendron.
Here's Hawk Wing winning the 2003 Lockinge Stakes @NewburyRacing @itvracing @Racing_UK @AtTheRaces @Ballydoyle @JosephOBrien2 . Think even the mighty Frankel would have had his work cut out to beat him this day! https://t.co/NuRmU7rgWB
— Patrick Cooney (@patcooney_365) May 18, 2018
The daughter of Galileo took on the role of Classic bridesmaid last season, finishing runner-up to stablemate Winter in the Qipco 1000 Guineas and Enable in the Investec Oaks before getting her just reward with a Group 1 victory in the Prix de L’Opera at Chantilly. A respectable fourth behind Cracksman on her seasonal reappearance at Longchamp last month the mount of Ryan Moore was sent off the 100-30 market leader at Newbury with that run under her belt plus the handy 3lb she received from her 13 rivals.
As it turned out that controversial sex allowance made all the difference to the outcome as Rhododendron and the Oisin Murphy-ridden Lightning Spear flashed past the line in unison with few prepared to call the result until the photo showed the Irish contender had prevailed by a short head with stable companion Lancaster Bomber two and three quarter lengths back in third place.
Rhododendron wins the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at @NewburyRacing in a photo finish with Lightning Spear!
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) May 19, 2018
In a race where those drawn low appeared to hold a significant advantage ( second favourite Addeybb could never get competitive from stall 16 ) the winner was ideally berthed in two and is likely to head to Royal Ascot next, of which O’Brien said: “ Looking to future plans we thought we would come here and then on to Ascot. We have the option of a mile or a mile and a quarter. We’ll have a good chat with Ryan, the lads always talk after the races and we’ll see what they want to do closer to Ascot.”
Rhododendron is a best price 5-1 favourite with Ladbrokes for the one mile Queen Anne Stakes at the royal meeting and 12-1 with Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power for the two furlong longer Prince Of Wales Stakes behind even money favourite Cracksman.