Al Shaqab was the proud sponsor of Saturday meeting at Newbury, featuring the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (Gr1) and the Al Rayyan Stakes (Gr3) as the main races.
Rhododendron was the winner of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, following a thrilling finish over a mile. There was only a short head between the four-year-old filly and the Qatar Racing-owned Lightning Spear. Lightning Spear was already second in the same race last year. Aidan O’Brien, the winning trainer, said: “We’ve been very happy with her since the last day and we were hoping she had progressed. Obviously, we were going back to a mile and she hadn’t been back there since she ran in the Guineas last year. We thought that whatever she did today, she would move up a bit. 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.”
Crystal Ocean showed his class in the Al Rayyan Stakes. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained four-year old was very impressive, taking the lead inside the final two furlongs and crossing the line six lengths clear of the runner-up Second Step. Sir Michael Stoute said: “We expected him to win. He is a very consistent, progressive and versatile horse and we hoped he could win that. He has got good form over 10 and 12 furlongs and he has been second in a St Leger. He is a joy to train. We’ve got him in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Hardwicke and Eclipse. We are going to try to work it out, but we don’t need to decide today.”