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Crystal sparkles to give Keane team ‘special’ Ascot success

Crystal sparkles to give Keane team ‘special’ Ascot success
Crystal sparkles to give Keane team ‘special’ Ascot success

Colin Keane reflected on the “most emotional” success of his riding career after delivering Crystal Black to perfection to win the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot for his father Gerard.

Champion jockey for the last four seasons in Ireland, Keane has enjoyed a whole host big-race victories during that period including Classic wins in the Irish 2,000 Guineas on Siskin, the Irish Oaks on Even So and the Irish Derby on Westover – but none more meant to him than this.

Heading to Ascot having won both of his starts this term, Crystal Black was an 11-1 shot for this ultra-competitive mile-and-a-half handicap and while he still had plenty of horses ahead of him heading into the straight, he soon responded to his rider’s urgings to take closer order.

Although the Willie Mullins-trained 7-4 favourite Ethical Diamond at one point looked the likely winner, Crystal Black was not for passing once striking the front, running on to score by two and a quarter lengths with ears pricked from David O’Meara’s Epic Poet. Ziggy made late headway to pip Ethical Diamond for third.

“It’s the most emotional I’ve felt about riding a winner. It’s very special riding one for my father at Royal Ascot, and a great bunch of owners (the Wear A Pink Ribbon Syndicate). They might not get home for a while to be honest, but they’re dead right,” said the jockey.

“He’s improved from run to run and we thought he’d get a mile and a half, the way he was finishing over a mile and a quarter.

“He seems to be a horse that the longer he’s on the bridle, the better he travels, and he can quicken.

“At home he can just win by a neck or a head and has kept on the right side of the handicapper, thankfully. You’d imagine he’d have to move up to Group level now.

“Dad only has a small number of horses, and we’re mainly a breaking and pre-training yard now, so to have a horse like him in the yard is brilliant.”

Colin Keane and Crystal Black return to the winner's enclosure
Colin Keane and Crystal Black return to the winner’s enclosure (John Walton/PA)

Keane senior added: “It’s just unbelievable, I never thought we’d have a horse here. I dreamed of maybe having a Cheltenham horse along the way, I never dreamed we’d have a Royal Ascot horse.

“We got him and early on he gave us plenty of hardship, he was wrong early on, but when he came right he had a great finish to the year and a great autumn.

“He’s just progressed ever since, this year he’s just had a trouble-free run the whole way. He couldn’t run in the Lincoln and looking back it was probably best he couldn’t. I messed up the passport but he’d have needed the run badly.

“He still needed the run first time out and that was five weeks later, so it was maybe the best thing that ever happened.”

On his son, he said: “He’s not too bad, is he? He gave him a great ride, knows the horse inside out, he just lets him creep into the race. It’s all about him finishing and he finishes well.”

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