Last week, I suggested that Champions Day was beginning to find its home in the affections of Flat racing aficionados; I suggested that Ascot’s big race day was pretty good. And what has hindsight provided? Well, for me it was more than pretty good. It was bleeding superb.
In Solow and Muharrah we were treated to the spectacle of undisputed champions of their divisions, the latter decisively confirming himself the best around this term – bar none and without any possible quarrel. Unsurprisingly, Solow’s win was clouded with controversy: Gleneagles did run (as I had hoped) and emphatically flopped (of course he did: I had tipped him last week) so the brilliance of Solow was clothed in recriminations over Gleneagles’ participation.
Failure to recognise Solow as the undisputed miler champion of the year is appalling. And in the Champion Stakes itself Dermot Weld reminded us all why he is such a genius by bringing Fascinating Rock to the boil after a couple of years of under achievement. I backed him in last year’s Derby and thereafter abandoned him as a hype horse. One day even I might learn that D K Weld is a magician and should be written off at peril.
The critics remain vocal, however. TV viewing figures were poor, even allowing for a competing Rugby World Cup and the presence of a handicap on a self-appointed day for champions baffles many. It doesn’t baffle punters however, and it is those punters who clicked through the turnstiles and had a flutter.
If the numbers don’t pick up next year, back in a regular later afternoon spot with no domestic sporting tournament to distract racing fans from their beloved sport, then we can worry anew. After all, we’re champions at worrying.
The last domestic Group One of the year is run this Saturday up at Doncaster as the Racing Post Trophy packs us off into the Winter with hopes of a Classic winner. I have mixed emotions – all selfish – about this race: firstly, it is always freezing cold and often wet. Flat racing at the back end of October at Donny is for the purists and I often realise I am far from pure when I shower on Town Moor.
By contrast, it was here that I first backed Authorised and Camelot en route to their 3 year Classic-winning careers. You forget how cold it is when you back a favourite who proves himself even better than you dared to dream.
This year we have John Gosden’s Foundation topping the early betting shows. Gosden has enjoyed the season of all seasons this term with Golden Horn as standard bearer supreme. And the joy of racing is that Autumn provides hope, most especially with the Racing Post Trophy.
Could Foundation be the next Golden Horn? Will he send Gosden, Dettori and the rest of us into the Winter with dreams of 2016 glory? It’s a tough ask but his Royal Lodge win and the confidence oozing out of Highclere suggest that the vibes for this special colt are not without their own foundation.
Not everyone in the press room agrees when celebrated sports writers turn their hand to racing and pen a profile on a “lesser known” character in the sport. So when the Mail on Sunday sent one of their top guys round to see Silvestre de Sousa, champion jockey elect, earlier this month I enjoyed the piece, although I found it had some inaccuracies.
De Sousa is unlikely to be remembered in years to come as a household name in the top tier of all-time great jockeys, but attempts to diminish the scale of his achievement this term are ill-founded. He worked harder than any other jockey and battled adversity with great courage.
I, for one, bellowed my approval when he collected his prize on Saturday from Lester Piggott. Hard work is often just as attractive as natural ability, and gritty courage and determination won the day. I find that beautiful.
Main image: Ascot racecourse by John Armagh