Tag Archive: ascot

  1. David Williams’ Royal Ascot 2015 Diary: Day Five as it happened

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    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.

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    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.

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    The press get well catered for at Royal Ascot

    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!

    Afternoon debrief

    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.

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    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.

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  2. David Williams’ Royal Ascot 2015 Diary: Day 4

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    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…

    After the races

    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.

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