The weather gods have clearly decided that enough is enough.
As I type, it has started to drizzle. The catering staff from the Parade Ring restaurant are in a playful mood before the gates open, performing a mass-dance to a Cheryl Cole (or whatever she’s currently called) bass hit on the steps of the Parade Ring much to the amusement of the other catering staff and assembled TV crews.
A few folk are beginning to flag, and strong coffee is the order of the morning. One chap who seems to be seeing out the trip very well is the Racing Post’s chief photographer, Edward Whitaker, who is talking up the chances of Postponed in the Hardwicke Stakes. Ed is a massive fan and is trying to get me to lay him a decent bet. Racing UK’s Dave Nevison has already made his move – backing the Ryan Moore pair of Telescope and Wicklow Brave to further punish the bookies.
There are fewer domestic press here today but a surge of international crews, primarily for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes where both the Aussies and the Americans fancy their chances of plundering the big Group 1 of the day.
A brief chat with the carnation and rose seller in car-park 2 reveals that the “average” donation for one of his tailcoat pocket flowers remains steady at a fiver, with one Japanese gentleman giving him £100 for a blue rose on Wednesday at one end of the scale and one – strictly unnamed – member of the press corps giving 20 pence the following day for a pink carnation. Shame on the UK!
Speaking of car park 2, trainer Jamie Osborne threw his usual after-racing car park party in there yesterday evening, and Bo Derek was the surprise and very welcome special guest. It was fun seeing the likes of Charlie Longsdon who had arrived earlier in the week in one of the Queen’s carriages leaving on the back seat of a pal’s Land Rover with hat boxes and dogs on his lap. How the mighty fall.
Speaking of falling, the drizzle is now steady. The first gentleman I saw this morning was Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, owner of Gordon Lord Byron who runs in this Diamond Jubilee this afternoon and who is reported to be worth a cool USD 6.6 billion. His horse needs it to rain and carry on raining, he tells me. Presumably he might slip your correspondent a fiver for a fresh flower if he scoops the prize as I’m more than happy to do a rain-dance for India’s 11th wealthiest man!
A quite alien start to the afternoon as Ryan Moore, aboard Chesham Stakes favourite Ballydoyle, is narrowly beaten in a photo finish by the unheralded, unfancied and almost unknown Suits You (14/1). Moore returned to the unsaddling enclosure looking as though he hadn’t had a winner all week.
The Wolferton Stakes is named after the railway station that the royal party would traditionally disembark at en route to Sandringham. That kind of info might serve you well in a pub quiz but won’t help you find the race winner. Happily for punters it took very little finding as John Gosden’s Mahsoob scored decisively under Paul Hanagan to set up a likely tilt back at this course next month in the King George VI Stakes.
King George hopefuls were on display in the Hardwicke courtesy of Telescope who had won this race easily 12 months ago and Eagle Top who was the horse springing in the market. In the end, Pat Smullen rode them all to sleep onboard 12/1 chance Snow Sky who went from pillar to post to hand Sir Michael Stoute yet another Hardwicke win, albeit with his second string. Will we also see him back here next month? Why on earth not!
The feature race of the day, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, was billed as a truly international affair. The Aussie favourite, Brazen Beau, perhaps lacked the mass euphoric appeal of Black Caviar some three short years ago, but there were no shortage of Australian flags in evidence. The USA’s premier training patriot of Royal Ascot, Wesley Ward, had other ideas however and the Americans trumped the Aussies with Undrafted to provide emotional scenes in the Winners Enclosure as connections broke down in tears of happiness.
The Wokingham is traditionally billed as the biggest betting heat of the week and David Lanigan’s Interception had been a 25/1 shot in the morning before being returned the 10/1 winner. By any stretch of the imagination that is one helluva gamble.
In the marathon finale, the Queen Alexandra, Oriental Fox outstayed his rivals for Mark Johnston to bring down the curtain on the 30-race week.
As I prepare to pack up the laptop for the fifth and final time, a mixed combination of relief, sadness and exhilaration wash over me.
Relief that I can get home and dress a little more ordinarily and get back into the gym to shift all the calories I’ve scoffed; sadness that the highlight of the summer is over and I probably won’t get to enjoy any more lemon tart; and exhilaration that Ascot still stands tall, providing the great stories and all the glamour that keeps us in thrall with the Flat game.