Well that was quite a week wasn’t it?
I came into this year’s Royal Ascot expecting a somewhat unbalanced week with Frankel on day one, Black Caviar on day five and, frankly, very little in between – how wrong I was.
It turned out to be one of the best Royal Ascot meetings I can recall – even the weather was relatively kind.
Even without Frankel I always think day one of the meeting is the best, with three group one contests. Of course the presence of the best racehorse in the world made it even better and to add a thick layer of icing on an already rich cake he, arguably, put in his best performance ever.
He certainly laid to rest the ghost of his run in last year’s St James’s Palace Stakes and he stamped his authority as the best living racehorse and depending on whose ratings you choose to believe he is either be best or second best horse ever.
My only grouse about his run was it was the first race on the card and to use the old cliché, an impossible act to follow.
It was known some time in advance that Frankel would be heading to the Queen Anne Stakes – could Ascot not have changed the running order so The Queen Anne was the feature race at 15:45, so we would, at least, have had an even bigger build-up to the contest?
He certainly was a hard act to follow and the favourites in the Kings Stand and St James’s Palace Stakes all disappointed. Indeed in the St James’s Palace Stakes the winner was the aptly named Most Improved.
For me it was a profitable day in that I backed Excelebration to win in the “without Frankel” market and my bet of the day was Simenon in the Ascot Stakes – more on him later.
After Tuesday and Frankel Wednesday’s card was going to struggle to live up to the same billing and with four of the six races going to horses with double digit odds it was a day for the layers.
The big race was the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes where there were hopes for a Royal Winner in Jubilee year as the improved Carlton House, owned by The Queen was a well backed second favourite. However, not for the first time, the Ballydoyle team came along as the party poopers, although there can be few complaints as So You Think chose to finally show his full potential and he came home a very worthy winner.
After two days of sunshine there was an almost certain inevitability the weather would change for Ladies Day and it sure did, luckily the precipitation was showery as opposed to the forecast persistent variety, however it was blowing a howling gale, making life difficult for racegoers with hats and horses (without hats) alike.
For me it was to be a second losing day on the trot, with only a couple of placed bets.
On the course we saw some great performances. Princess Highway in the Ribblesdale and Energizer in the Tercentenary both put in scintillating late runs to win their respective contests, the former being one of the most eye-catching runs I’ve seen from a filly in a long time.
Thursday’s feature race was The Gold Cup, note not The Ascot Gold Cup, it’s the one Gold Cup race which doesn’t need a location descriptor.
Fame And Glory was sent off the odds-on favourite to retain the cup, looking to give the Ballydoyle team a sixth win in seven year – it wasn’t to be and their old “enemy” Godolphin claimed a 1-2 with Frankie Dettori on Colour Vision edging out, literally, Opinion Poll ridden by up and coming Mickael Barzalona.
The pair had a “coming together” in the final stages and in a televised Stewards Enquiry Dettori was given a fairly easytime by the stewards. Of course Barzalona wasn’t going to criticise his “team mate” but the Stewards could have been more probing. There was never any danger of Dettori losing the race but by not switching his whip through to his correct hand he was arguably guilty of careless riding and he should have picked up a two day ban. Instead the Stewards deemed the interference accidental and no action was taken.
For me Friday was the day I clawed the money back from the bookmakers as Newfangled, Estimate and, my banker of the week, Gatewood all obliged.
I was really impressed with Gatewood at Epsom who ran on late to win from an almost impossible position. He adopted the same tactics again here but with it being his first time on ground with the word soft appearing in the going description he didn’t seem to accelerate as well. He only got home by a neck but a winner is a winner.
For the rest of the world the big result was Estimate as she is owned by The Queen and it meant she had her 21st winner at the Royal meeting but, more importantly, a winner in her Jubilee year. An almighty roar went out as Estimate hit the front and the commentary was drowned out as she came home five lengths clear.
By a strange quirk of fate the prize for that race was presented by The Duke Of Edinburgh – it’s a shame he didn’t give the winning owner a kiss.
Saturday, of course, was all about the one horse and a capacity crowd created a fantastic atmosphere, for me the best atmosphere I have even encountered at a flat meeting and I thought the atmosphere at last year’s Champions Day would not be beaten.
Of course we all know what happened and there is no point in dwelling on it to long here.
I will stick with what I wrote immediately after the race when I said “for me Black Caviar is still a great horse despite the best efforts of her rider to ruin her chances.”
It’s very easy, although justified, to be critical of Luke Nolen, however to his absolute credit he held his hands up and admitted his mistake and anyone who saw him in the aftermath could realise how upset he was at what happened. No private rollicking from a trainer or owner would be as harsh as Nolen was being on himself.
My biggest fear was what the reaction been had Black Caviar been beaten due to Nolen’s error – how would the crowd have reacted? Thankfully we never got to find out.
It is a great pity that Nolen’s ride overshadowed the race. At the end of the day she is still unbeaten, 22 from 22.
She may not have been 100% - she cannot tell us – but she still won, it wasn’t her fault she only won by a head.
The other shame of the final day is all the attention on Black Caviar detracted from a brilliant performance by Simenon who followed up his 2m 4f Ascot Stakes win on Tuesday with victory in the almost 2m 6f Queen Alexandra Stakes. Despite Ryan Moore failing to get a run against the rail and having to be switched he showed a great turn of foot to come home seven lengths clear.
That run was the icing on my punting cake as he obliged for me the second time in the week and coupled with winning runs from Sea Moon and Camborne gave me a good end to the week.
From a working perspective it was a hard week, I hardly got to see the runners in the parade ring and the media centre was rammed packed – even more than usual with all the international attention on the meeting with the two best horses in the world in attendance.
I hope Ascot do review how they deal with accrediting press at future Royal meetings, I know I am not the only one who is frustrated with the current system but that shouldn’t detract from what was a fantastic weeks racing.
It will soon be back to earth with a bump as my next scheduled racing is Worcester on Wednesday – one couldn’t ask for a bigger contrast.