Mitch Aitken proud of Asfoora’s achievement

Ballarat-based rider Mitch Aitken had some mixed emotions as he woke early in the morning to watch Asfoora win at Royal Ascot.

Aitken rode the Henry Dwyer-trained mare in her first outing in the UK at Haydock and was replaced by Oisin Murphy for the King Charles III Stakes (1000m) which the mare won in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Prior to the King Charles III win, Aitken had ridden Asfoora to five victories, including her biggest win in the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes at Caulfield last spring.

Aitken spoke to Murphy when it was confirmed he would be replaced on the mare at Royal Ascot and gave the winning jockey a few pointers on Asfoora.

He said Asfoora was ‘push-button’ to ride although she did have a few quirks in the barriers.

“I always knew I wasn’t going over for that race so there were some mixed emotions, but I’m really proud of her and for Henry too,” Aitken said.

“It was a courageous thing to do to take her over there, despite what all the people were saying.

“He believed in himself and the horse and good on him for doing that.”

On return to Australia last month after riding Asfoora at Haydock, Aitken had the added worry of his luggage going astray forcing him to miss the Ararat trials that morning.

His bags showed up at home a couple of days later.

“She was always going to benefit from that run,” Aitken said.

“I thought the way the track is, it was going to be a sticky five-furlong race going up that strong hill that there is, and I thought it might take her another run to get into where she needs to be.

“But she had her game face on and when she does, she’s brilliant.”

Aitken has not given up hope of being a further part of the Asfoora program in the UK.

While the Group 2 King George Stakes at Goodwood in early August may now be off the table, the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York later that month could be on the agenda.

“I don’t know yet, but we’ll wait and see, and hopefully I’ll get the call from Henry,” Aitken said.

“I’ll have the bags ready and hopefully they won’t go missing this time.”

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