Dubai Defoe gave Epsom Derby-winning owner Shaikh Mohammad Obaid Al Maktoum another major success when he stormed home an impressive winner of the Group 1 Coronation Cup, one of the showpiece races on the opening day of the Derby Festival.
Ridden by Andrea Atzeni, who was in rousing form with three wins on the day, Defoe comfortably had the beating of favourite Key Gardens, last year’s St. Leger (Group 1) scorer, by half a length.
The Charlie Appleby-James Doyle paring also displayed sizzling form with a pair of notable wins on the historic racecourse in Surrey.
Pinatubo landed the opening Woodcote EBF Stakes before the team returned to the winner’s enclosure later in the evening after Space Blues landed the Listed Surrey Stakes.
The feature race of the day, the Group 1 Epsom Oaks was won by Anapurna, one of Atzeni’s three wins.
Commenting on Defoe’s smart victory, which has earned him a trip to Royal Ascot, Varian said: “It was a great ride but then they always are when they win! One and two are quite a tricky draw over a mile and a half around here, history and the stats will tell you that, but it’s really worked out for him.”
Bookmakers took note of the race and cut Defoe’s odds to 6-1 (from 16) for the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and introduced him at 12-1 for the King George (G1) at Ascot Racecourse in July.
Pinatubo justified his favouritism in the £60,000 Woodcote with a smoothe performance and could also head to Royal Ascot for the Group 2 Coventry Stakes ) or the Listed Chesham Stakes.
Winning trainer Appleby said: “James just said he got a bit upset in the gates there and just slipped on the way out.
“It wasn’t ideal, but I always thought he wouldn’t have the early toe for them as they were going to go a decent gallop.
“Once James moved Pinatubo down the hill in the straight, he stayed on strongly. It was a pleasing performance. He qualifies for the Chesham after winning this race and he does his best work at the finish, so stepping him up in trip would not worry me at all,” Appleby added.
“We’ll make the entries for the Coventry or the Chesham. We’ll see how he comes out of this and then make a plan.”