Evergreen Kelly finally banishes Royal Ascot demons by edging pulsating Wokingham Stakes duel

The County Leitrim jockey clinched the 6f contest to bang in his first ever winner at the meeting

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Evergreen Kelly, 42, revelled in finally ending his Royal Ascot drought after edging a thrilling renewal of the Wokingham Stakes

Journeyman jockey Shane Kelly says he finally righted the wrongs of his frustration-filled Royal Ascot history after clinching his maiden winner at the ‘flagship’ meeting, writes Will Jennings.

The evergreen County Leitrim rider, 42, has long been chasing Surrey nirvana and banished his demons in style on Saturday by winning the Wokingham Stakes aboard the David Evans-trained Rohaan.

Kelly has racked up over 300 winners over the years but endured ‘near miss’ after ‘near miss’ at Royal Ascot.

He ended his barren spell with victory in the 6f Heritage Handicap race and admits it was high time he rose to the occasion as he enters the twilight of his career in the saddle.

Relieved Kelly, who is based in the UK and rides regularly for Evans, said: "It's just wonderful when it all works out.

“I've had a few near misses before in the past but it’s a flagship meeting, and to get a winner at Ascot after all these years is fantastic.

“It’s fantastic. I’m overdue one and probably should have had one before now – but that’s history and it was a great performance from the horse.

“He’s an incredible horse – he goes on any ground but handled this particularly well, so I’m thrilled.

“He’s a remarkable horse. It’s a great training performance by David and his team, and hopefully he’s not finished winning yet.

“I was lucky enough to get on this horse, and the rest is history."

Rohaan edged out the James Fanshawe-trained Fresh by a neck on the meeting’s final day to finally catapult Kelly, and Wales-based trainer Evans, into the Royal Ascot big time.

Fresh rallied as they approached the line but Evans’ three-year-old had enough in the tank to narrowly hold off the Kieran Shoemark-ridden mount in an absorbing duel.

Andrew Balding’s King’s Lynn – ridden by Ryan Moore – finished third but it was all about Kelly, who can now finally call himself a Royal Ascot winner.

And the jubilant Irish rider, who hails from Cloone in County Leitrim, added: “He couldn’t go early – I know we were probably going fast, but I squeezed him for a bit.

“I just had to accept it and hope that he’d come good, and he did. It’s great for the owner and it goes without saying, David too."

Trainer Evans added: “It’s a strange feeling. He’s a serious horse but no-one has taken him seriously.

“It’s gone and been done – I don’t know what to say. It’s a great feeling and it hasn’t really sunk in yet."

Elsewhere on Saturday, Willie Mullins scored in the lucky last as Stratum triumphed in the Queen Alexandra Stakes.

Ridden by Moore – off the back off Point Lonsdale’s victory in the Chesham Stakes – Mullins’ eight-year-old toppled Richard Hughes’ Calling The Wind to bang in Ireland’s sixth winner of the week in Surrey.

And prolific Mullins said: “I thought Stratum never looked so well and he ran like he looked.

“Even though the ground didn't suit him ideally, he probably handled it a lot better than other horses.

“It is a huge advantage to have someone like Ryan Moore riding for you when we bring over these types of horses. I am delighted.”

I've had a few near misses before in the past but it’s a flagship meeting, and to get a winner at Ascot after all these years is fantastic.
- Shane Kelly

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