In the end A Shin Hikari came unstuck. Barely half an hour earlier, a more familiar international raider, Wesley Ward, reminded us why he is the undisputed global king of the speedballs when his much touted Lady Aurelia turned the Queen Mary into a hideous mismatch.
Those of us watching on course stood open-mouthed as this two-year-old filly destroyed her rivals with contempt.
The so-called Japanese superhorse turned in a less than super performance in yesterday’s Prince Of Wales Stakes, beaten a long way out and failing to deliver the international fairytale that many from the Far East had craved.
The margin of her victory – and the time (the best part of 2 seconds faster that Tuesday’s King’s Stand) — are still scarcely believable and if I have ever seen a faster juvenile I cannot remember it. Ward is now a Royal Ascot, of course. His novelty value has worn off and given way to the highest level of respect from even the most grizzled and hardened of Ascot traditionalists.
The international element of Royal Ascot has been much on my mind. Mary, the Crown Princess of Denmark turned a few heads yesterday, largely due to her alleged likeness to the Duchess of Cambridge. Poor Kate was making her Ascot debut but lost the battle of the brunettes to the Danish darling who was resplendent in orange. Of course the fashionistas refuse to call orange orange, just as red cannot be red. Rather like description of wine we are expected to prefix our colours with emotive descriptions, so in true Gok Wan style, I thought the Crown Princess looked radiant in her burnt Mediterranean sunset ensemble.
In the fashion stakes for fellas, the grey top hats hit back hard yesterday. The Duke Of Edinburgh is their patron, although his son Charles served it up by way of opposition with easily the shiniest black silk topper on course. Charles is an Ascot curiosity. One senses that this week isn’t top of the pile when it comes to equine favourites, but he still looks to enjoy himself. He wears the palest of grey morning suits with probably the finest double-breasted waistcoat of them all. His black topper is the envy of the Royal Enclosure, just as a Prince of Wales ought to be.
Prince William played it safe yesterday, favouring his grandfather’s traditional morning coat but his father’s topper. Well played William. Still, the grey toppers are on the charge and today — Ladies Day — will be decisive in my final judgement as to what constitutes the ultimate in Royal Ascot attire for the modern-day gentleman.
On the racecourse later today we have, of course, the Ascot Gold Cup — probably the defining race of the week with a market headed by Aidan O’Brien’s Order Of St George. Recent Gold Cups have gone the way of Fame And Glory and, most notably, the outstanding multiple-winner Yeats for the all-conquering Tipperary operation.
This time last year, stable jockey Ryan Moore was turning nearly all he touched to gold, but with only Caravaggio winning the Coventry it has hitherto been an underwhelming week for the Coolmore partners. They need to win today to halt the jitters and the pacing. Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation — for so long the arch rivals of Ballydoyle — are on the Ascot scoreboard, thanks to Ribchester, Portage and Usherette yesterday, and Messrs Magnier et al will not like for one moment the prospect of the Sheikh beating them to top Ascot owner. It’s a subplot to relish for the remaining three days.
As script writers would have it, the most entertaining race for commentators on course today could easily be the RIbblesdale at 3.40. Queen’s Trust (10/1), Sovereign Parade (13/2) and We Are Ninety (14/1) are all in with a chance to provide priceless mirth for the 60,000 on course as Her Majesty settles in for the fillies’ feature. We are blessed with a vintage crop of commentators right now and if the likes of Hoiles, Bartlett, Hunt and Holt can’t conjure something entertaining for the Queen as they turn into the straight, I will be stunned!
The Williams Millions enjoyed a rare day of sunshine yesterday so I’m going in again today with the following selections: Global Applause for Frankie in the Norfolk, Blue De Vega in the Hampton Court (or whatever they call it nowadays), Even Song for Team Ballydoyle in the Ribblesdale, Mizzou to give Luca Cumani some Gold Cup success, Abe Lincoln for Jeremy Noseda in the Britannia (each way, somewhat cowardly) and Guy Fawkes (the most bizarrely named Royal runner in history) for Her Majesty in the King George V finale.