The Velvet King stamped his Ascot carnival aspirations with a hard-fought win in the Group 3 Northerly Stakes (1400m) at Ascot on Saturday.

But for Darren McAuliffe the win means so much more than just automatic entry in the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) on November 23.

It’s the story of a top horseman and his special affection for a horse and the love that binds them together.

“He’s been a little bit of a project horse,” McAuliffe said.

“No one ever liked him except for me.

“He’s been my little mate and I love him to bits.

“He was foaled in 40-degree weather into an electric fence and I had to drag him out.

“It means a lot more to me than people probably understand.

“I was there when he took his first breath.

“He is a nice horse and we have looked after him.

“And now he is into the Railway.”

McAuliffe won his second Northerly Stakes after Fuchsia Bandana won in 2014.

The Velvet King, a winner of the Lee Steere Classic (1400m) last year, defeated Achernar Star by a short neck with another long head to Great Shot.

Box seating in third position to the turn for jockey Mitchell Pateman, The Velvet King pounced when a gap opened at the top of the straight.

In a stirring battle, he worked hard to overhaul a brave Great Shot and then fought on strongly when Achernar Star made a late surge.

“He is a star and a good horse,” Pateman said.

“He got a good split at the top of the straight and put them to bed.

“He did everything perfect and is a high-class animal.

“If he did everything right he would be a Group 1 horse no doubt.”

Julio Santarelli