Murtagh wizard on Winkle

Rip Van Winkle showed his undoubted class with a brave victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-old had to pull out all the stops to hold the late bid of Zacinto in the Sony-sponsored Group One contest.

Delegator was third with Aqlaam, who made the early running, last of the four.

Richard Hills set out to make a fast pace on Aqlaam with Rip Van Winkle on his heels as these two pulled a few lengths clear of their two rivals.

Johnny Murtagh decided to hit the front on the 8-13 shot as they turned into the straight. Delegator was the first to threaten but his challenge petered out and it was left to 18-1 chance Zacinto to throw down the gauntlet.

However, Rip Van Winkle pulled out more to win by a length and a quarter, with Delegator three and a quarter lengths back in third.

Murtagh said: "I've found out how to ride him, what he likes and doesn't like.

“I was sitting at home last night wondering if anything was going to go wrong with him. Thankfully the last two weeks have gone well.

“I rode him the other morning and I’ve always thought a lot of him. I’m not going to change what I have always said about him.

“It was a long way in the straight, but he stays this trip well and really put them to the sword. He’s come out on top in a tough race.

“He’s a typical Ballydoyle horse. He’s courageous brave and come the big day they are always there.”

O'Brien added: "There's a big team involved and in the spring he had an infection on all four heels and went on to his feet.

“The lads at home have done a marvellous job to keep him right. He had an interrupted preparation after Goodwood and it’s only in the last two weeks he’s had a good run.

“We didn’t put in a pacemaker as we would have had to put in a Group One sprinter and we haven’t got one.

“It was lovely the way it happened today – he’s brave and he stays. He is class. Johnny was masterful on him

“He’ll go for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and we’re really looking forward to it.

“We were very worried coming here because of his preparation as he’s only had the last two weeks smooth.

“Everybody will check him over when we get home. He was lame for three weeks after Goodwood. The last two weeks were good and hopefully we might get a smooth run after today.”

Teddy Grimthorpe, representing Zacinto's owner Khalid Abdullah, said: ``At one stage we got upsides the winner, and one thing is for sure - we have earned a bit of respect today.

“There are a couple of options, including the Champion Stakes and one of the mile races at the Breeders’ Cup.

“But our immediate thought after this is to go to Newmarket (Champion Stakes).”

Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said of Delegator: “He fell a bit short today, but we were beaten by two better horses on the day.

“My feeling is we will still go for the Breeders’ Cup Mile with him, he will be running against those good horses and we know there will be no hiding place in California.”

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