My alarm went at 5am and I staggered to the shower.
By 5.45 I was on course and heading for the Breakfast TV stations who were all peppered around the winning line.
The Beeb was here, as were Sky Sports and ITV’s crew from Good Morning Britain. I had an appointment with the latter but had arrived too early for the flower-sellers and had to pinch a last minute red bloom to match my tie from one of the flower-pots here on course before I appeared on telly.
It was barely 6 am and yet the sun was shining on Ladies Day and as I surveyed the near-empty racecourse I was reminded anew about racing’s enduring appeal. It is a theatre that has stood the test of the ages.
I was brought back down to a bump as the next person I saw was a sunhat-wearing John McCririck.
His wife, “The Booby” was parking the car and Big Mac was manhandling two bacon butties and a home-made coffee. He was ranting – as usual – about women wearing high heels.
John loves to play the clown and he plays it very well, but we should remember that in his pomp he was an award-winning journalist. Love or loathe him (and how he loves to be loathed!) the Press Room will be a duller place without Big Mac.
Pre-race gossip was centring around the participation or otherwise of Ascot Gold Cup favourite, Forgotten Rules. The Dermot Weld-trained horse appears to relish a bit of cut in the ground and despite Clerk of the Course Chris Stickels watering a good 5mm overnight, rumours continue to circulate about whether or not Forgotten Rules will line up.
It makes form-study a bit of a pointless exercise, so I went for a walk down into the Silver Ring. Very few of the society-mag snappers venture this far from the Royal Enclosure but Ascot have really upped their game since I came here as a student with terrific catering, easy access to bars, betting and – most importantly – to the loos. Royal Ascot are branding this week as “Like Nowhere Else” and whilst the Silver Ring might not immediately spring to mind, they can lay claim to offering the best all-round racing experience for families and casual racegoers.
It’s now mid-morning and although there’s a welcome breeze it is beginning to get hot, hot, hot on course. The ice-cream sellers have opened early for Ladies Day and are doing a brisk trade. I reckon I could earn a fortune selling dollops of factor 15 on the High Street but it’s time to sign off and go and steal a peek at some of the Ladies Day fashions. The last Ladies Day I attended was the day before the Grand National up at Aintree. Something tells me this might be a little bit more refined…
As I write, the racecourse is swirling with mixed emotions.
Unconfirmed reports about the well-being of Her Majesty the Queen’s horse, Capel Path, who was pulled up in the Britannia Handicap refuse to go away.
It will cast a dark shadow over the meeting if the worst suspicions are confirmed so we can only hope – as I write – that the horse makes a full recovery.
Earlier in the day, the sun had shone brightly on the busiest day of the week. The Queen wore what royal courtiers confusingly called “pistachio” evoking images of ice-creams in the royal carriage.
The Duke of Edinburgh, not known for his endless love of thoroughbred racing, might have appreciated an ice n flake. The bookies were just relieved it wasn’t yellow or white.
Mr Ryan ‘you-know-who’ Moore was back in the Winners Enclosure aboard Waterloo Bridge in the opening Norfolk Stakes.
There are few things more irritating than punters with hindsight, but historians who failed to spot the Waterloo connection this week will be kicking themselves until the 300 year anniversary.
Favourite backers were at it again with Time Test putting up one of the most impressive wins of the week in the Tercentenary Stakes. Roger Charlton’s horse was far too good for his rivals under Frankie Dettori and is sure to line up in higher quality races later this Summer: the Juddmonte International Stakes at York in August was mooted as a likely target for the lightly-raced star.
It was more of Moore – again – in the Ribblesdale as the Ballydoyle silks were carried to success courtesy of Curvy before the bookies received some respite in the feature race of the week – the Ascot Gold Cup – as Trip To Paris sprang a shock under Graham Lee for trainer Ed Dunlop. Can anybody name the last jockey to complete the Grand National-Ascot Gold Cup double? Nope, me neither. But what a feat for Lee who remains one of the nicest guys in the Weighing Room.
Barely 10 minutes after collecting his prize from Her Majesty he was pulling on her famous royal silks for the Britannia ride on Capel Path. The race was won by War Envoy (I surely don’t even need to tell you who the jockey was?!) but it will be the news of Capel Path that we will be monitoring as priority.
The final race of the day, the King George V Stake, went to Godolphin’s Space Age and as the punters filed for the car park parties and last orders at the Bollinger tent, the sun was still shining. But an air of anxiety hangs over Ascot tonight: fingers and toes crossed please for Capel Path.