I wonder what proportion of the press pack put on weight during Ascot week? Looking at a few of them you’d think it would be scarcely possible to carry any more weight without falling on their faces, but the toffee puddings and afternoon teas that never run dry have no shortage of takers.
I was chatting with Alastair Down and Claude Duval earlier this morning, who were telling me that in the 80s, the northern track Press Rooms used to have a free bar. Many a midweek drab day of racing was enlivened at Hexham and Thirsk by the appearance of bottles of scotch which were immediately decanted into hip flasks by the hardy band of reporters. Those days have passed. Kind of.
The security operation at Royal Ascot is a sight to behold. At 9 am this morning there were six of us pretending to work in the Media Centre, until we were joined by NINE police officers and 3 sniffer-dogs. Every morning the cops check the same several thousand security seals and the beautiful sniffer dogs have a wonderful time charging through the Royal Enclosure on the hunt for explosives.
In the Parade Ring restaurant, the catering vans have arrived. Whoever is the main foreman here ought to be knighted. How it ever translates into the glorious food and service that 50,000 guests a day enjoy is beyond me.
It’s a bit more overcast at the moment, but some of the hacks are wearing dark glasses. This is clearly to disguise bleary eyes rather than to protect from the sun. Friday is traditionally the day when the 5-day brigade take a pull, try to get back on the bridle and consider soft drinks. Wonders never cease…
It was the sunniest day of the week. The Queen – finally – wore yellow but by this stage not even the bookies cared too much.
The Duke of Edinburgh looked a little bit jaded but flourished his top hat to the crowds with all the vigour of a teenager when they cheered for him. Sadly for Her Majesty, her only horse of the day – Fabricate – was scratched from the last race of the day before racing began.
Results began on a familiar theme: Richard Hughes steered the favourite Illuminate to victory in the Albany Stakes to give first-season stallion Zoffany his third win of the week. Zoffany – who is owned by the all-powerful Coolmore breeding operation – is about to become a whole lot more expensive thanks to juvenile results this week.
The King Edward VII went to Balios under an inspired ride from Jamie Spencer. Spencer is back from retirement and declared himself glad to be on the scoreboard if only to silence his young children who had been giving him grief all week. “I can’t wait to watch tomorrow morning’s highlights” he laughed.
The newly created Commonwealth Cup went the way of the Charlie Hills-trained Muharaar. Bookies reported terrific betting interest in the new Group One and the Ascot authorities can reflect on an initiative that has had that most rare of reaction in racing: universal support.
The French got on the scoreboard as super cool Christophe Soumillon held on with his filly Ervedya to take the other Group One of the day, the Coronation Stakes for HH the Aga Khan.
Less prestigious but no less deserved was the win of Arab Dawn who gave Hughie Morrison his first winner of the week in the Duke of Edinburgh. And so we arrived at the finale and the bookies dared to believe that Ryan Moore was on the turn.. Not a bit of it: his masterful ride on Aloft helped give punters the send-off they had hoped for as the Ballydoyle colt cruised to victory, setting up a final day at this most magnificent meeting of them all.