Afaak makes it third time lucky with Hunt Cup win
They say the best way to achieve success is to try, try and try again and Afaak proved that motto correct by landing a big-field Royal Ascot handicap at the third attempt.
Having finished seventh in the Britannia as a three-year-old and a two-and-a-quarter-length second in the Royal Hunt Cup last year, Afaak managed to go one better in the same race 12 months later to score under Jim Crowley by the narrowest of margins.
Sent off at 20-1 in a race that often confuses punters, Afaak was ridden prominently on his return from a 263-day absence and held on gamely to deny the fast-finishing Clon Coulis in the final stride by a nose.
Trainer Charlie Hills, who endured a tough Tuesday when his well-fancied duo Battaash and Phoenix Of Spain were beaten, had this race in mind for Afaak since the start of the year, but the five-year-old’s preparation had been far from ideal.
“It wasn’t the plan to come here first time out as we wanted to give him a run a couple of weeks ago, but he just didn’t look right,” explained Hills. “He was gelded over the winter and never thrived at all. He still looks quite wintry in his coat.
“He would do a couple of really nice pieces of work, but the next time we would work him he wouldn’t look as good.”
Afaak’s class was never in doubt and, given that he stays further than a mile, confidence was high when he struck the front firmly on the bridle.
Hills added: “He was second in the race last year, we knew he definitely had the ability to run a good race and he has run off higher marks, so that was in our favour.
“Angus [Gold, racing manager] and I have always thought a mile and a quarter was in his compass and the race actually worked out perfectly for us – Jim gave him a great ride. He loves having room in his races and the fact the race split into two groups for him worked well.”