It was a case of ‘oh so close’ for Australia in the Kings Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot overnight with Star Witness falling just short in what was a hugely exciting contest.
He looked a bit worked up before the race but so too were plenty of the other runners as the sun came out and baked the good rated track.
When the gates opened Star Witness missed the kick, he was last of the entire field and multiple lengths behind the leaders instantly.
One thing working in his favour though was that he was on the better side of the track as they made their way down the straight.
The field split into two main groups and Star Witness was at the back of his settling for the first furlong or so.
Jockey Steven Arnold then started to work him down the very outside and he quickened nicely and went to the front of the pack.
As the field started to split apart Star Witness was running strongly at the leaders and reeled most of them in to give himself a chance in the final furlong.
He had done too much work early though and he ended up falling just short with Prohibt having an uninterrupted run the length of the straight.
Trainer Danny O’Brien was reeling about the poor start given how well the horse finished the race.
“The history of this race says you can’t give them six to eight lengths head start and he probably did have to come from that far off them. We’ll regroup and hopefully be back on Saturday (Golden Jubilee),” O’Brien said.
“We came here with the intention of running twice provided he showed his best form. Obviously he’s run right up to his best form without winning, so provided he does well in the next couple of days there’s a good chance you’ll see him back here on Saturday.
“He looked like he’s looking for the six (furlongs), it all happened a bit quick for him out there today. But he’s having a good look around now and taking it all in so hopefully that leaves him in good stead for his next start.”
Royal Ascot was always meant to be a quick hit and run mission for Star Witness but after missing out on a victory so narrowly O’Brien may be tempted to prolong the stay.
“He’s got the cobwebs out of his system today so it may be Saturday or the July Cup in three weeks time.” O’Brien said.
Although he’s only done it once, Star Witness has proved in the past that he can handle the short turnaround.
Last spring in Melbourne he had a week between runs before finishing second to Black Caviar in the Patinack Farm Classic against a quality field.
Like O’Brien, Arnold was gutted by what could have been if only he’d jumped on level terms with the pack.
“He was pretty stirred up behind the barriers and began a little awkwardly. He came out of the gates a little bit sideways so I had to give him a stride or two to balance up,” Arnold said.
“But he’s run super. They went really quick in the race and I would have liked one of the others to drag me into the it, but I had to come out and make my own running from the two furlong mark.”
Arnold was also hopeful the horse would be fit to run in the Golden Jubilee where he’ll meet fellow Australian Hinchinbrook.
Connections are desperate to claim a Group 1 win in England with Star Witness to be retired to stud following his final race in England.
The 2011 Kings Stand Stakes though belongs to Prohibit with his half length victory the first at Royal Ascot for trainer Jim Crowley.
“It worked out to perfection, everything clicked into place. He’s a hold up horse and they ran along which is what he needed,” Crowley said.
Rounding out the places was Sweet Santelle in third spot.