Wilson up for the Cup

The Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup has had some vociferous critics down the years but with the organisers settling on a format that seems to work, Ascot staged a tremendously successful renewal on Saturday.

A large ingredient of the success was the performance of leading Canadian female rider Emma-Jayne Wilson.

While she may have been pipped to the Silver Saddle by Olivier Peslier, with the Frenchman prevailing in the title of top jockey for the day by two points, the two winners she rode and her beaming smile lit up Berkshire.

Peslier, and teammates Adrie de Vries and Frankie Dettori won the team challenge for Europe, a point ahead of the Girls team which was led by Wilson and contained Hayley Turner and German Steffi Hoffer.

It could have all been so different, though, as Wilson and Astronereus were beaten just a nose by Peslier and Our Gabrial (8-1), with the Canadian ace dropping her whip. Europe ended up with 69 against the Girls on 68, although winning skipper Dettori was not exactly thrilled by his own role in the win.

“What a captain I am,” said the Italian wryly. “I’m different class! Three points and four of my horses lame.”

Peslier said: “I’m very happy. It’s been a competition everyone could follow until the end. Everything happened in the last race.”

With well over 1,000 winners at home, Wilson, 32, is no novice to the game but she undoubtedly embraced it best.

Having drawn a blank from two previous Shergar Cups, she punched the air after helping the Lady Cecil-trained Retirement Plan (7-1) collar an enterprising De Vries on 25-1 shot Buckland in the Stayers.

“It means absolutely everything, I’m elated,” she said.

“It’s not just winning the Shergar Cup for the team, winning a race over here means a lot to me personally.

“Ten years ago when I started riding I never dreamed I’d be here in this position.

“I’m proud to be here, and proud to be a Canadian.”

Lady Cecil said: “I thought Emma gave him a lovely ride. He’s a horse we’ve always liked and he just got tired here last time. We know he’ll stay two miles now.

“He’s in the Ebor, he gets a penalty but I’m not sure he’ll get in. I’ve also entered him in the Irish Leger. I’m not sure about that but we’ve got a few options.”

Wilson then got the Dandy Nicholls-trained Don’t Call Me (5-1) home by a neck in a blanket finish to the Mile.

“I knew I had some horse to ride,” she said. “But there were others in there to beat, and I could see in the finish they had their game faces on too, with their ears pinned. But my horse dug in and met them. He wanted the fight as much as I did and enjoyed it as much. This was horse racing at its best, for sure.”

Craig Williams has won multiple Group Ones worldwide, but he was another rider to be breaking his Shergar Cup duck in the opening Dash.

The Australian has ridden around Ascot many times before and sat prominently on Robert Cowell’s 7-2 favourite Goldream, holding on by a head for the Rest of the World.

At Haydock Joe Fanning stole the show with a treble, including two of the feature races.

Amralah (14-1) won the Group Three Betfred Rose Of Lancaster Stakes and Mick Channon’s charge appears to be improving rapidly.

Unfortunately, Channon did not get too see the performance as he was stuck on the M6 due to an accident, but said via telephone: “We have always thought he was a good horse and he’s obviously improving. Joe has ridden for me a bit in the past and he’s always been great on front-runners, that’s why we got him.”

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