This year, circumstance allowing it, I watched every race on all five days of Royal Ascot and was royally entertained. I have gone on about the fashion in another piece so will gloss over the annoyance of it. The racing, though, was good and that is what Royal Ascot is truly about.
It was pleasing to see a few more female riders getting rides this year, even if Josie Gordon had the majority. I will write again on this subject but for now will simply say that we should applaud the improvement in numbers from last year and reiterate the generally held believe that it is only a matter of time before Gaye Kelleway’s historic achievement is first equalled by Gordon and then bettered.
Big Orange, of course, was the star of the show, gameness personified. As was Order of St.George. Why the Gold Cup is not the most valuable race of the meeting beggars belief. It should be. It deserves to be. The incentive should be offered to owners to campaign their top horses over the longer distances and massive prize money is the answer. Every top staying horse around the world – I suspect this only encompasses Europe – should have the Ascot Gold Cup as its main target.
Lady Aurelia was spectacular and with the advantage of the sex allowance should put the likes of The Tin Man and Caravaggio in their places should they clash in either the July Cup or Nunthorpe, though it must be remembered that Coolmore have a lot invested in Caravaggio and will do their utmost to get him to stud next year unbeaten.
I must admit it got my ire rising, as it always does, when I see horses veer across the track, only to be checked by their riders when a collision looks imminent. Firstly, it looks bad. Secondly, isn’t there a responsibility on a jockey to keep a straight course? Occasionally the jockey is not in control of the situation but there are times when jockeys deliberately allow their mounts to drift across the course. Although Ryan Moore made light of the bumping Limato endured in the Diamond Jubilee, saying it did not cost him the race, he was the one who kept a straight course, whereas Queally and Crowley intentionally or otherwise closed in on him. I thought punishments were deserved, though not disqualifications.
I am mystified why beating the like of the well-exposed Lightning Spear should warrant Ribchester getting a rating that makes him the third-best horse in the world. A good, reliable horse no doubt but it is stretching credulity to think him ‘superstar’ status.
Barney Roy might turn out the best of an ordinary bunch of milers this season as I saw no visual excuse for Churchill. And just on that topic. The numpties who think Clemmie is a clever name for a sister of Churchill should consider taking one less sharp drink before airing their views. Winston was married to Clementine; she was not his sister.
I wouldn’t rate any of the two-year-olds overly highly judged by their exploits at Ascot, though that is not to say they will not prove their class later in the season.
I criticise Coolmore a great deal for one thing or another but Highland Reel is a credit to them, as they are to him. Campaigned like a proper racehorse he gets better and better and it was only by a short head that he was the second-gamest horse of the five days.
Personally it was pleasing to have Benbatl win the Hampton Court as I thought this year’s Derby was an above average race and said on this website that Benbatl was one of the horses to follow for the rest of the season.
Now I know Ed Chamberlain and others went overboard before and after the Commonwealth Cup but to be bestowed with the honour of ‘monster’ and ‘superstar’ to my mind a horse has to achieve more than what Caravaggio has thus far achieved, and his fine win has been belittled lightly by the news that Blue point finished slightly lame. And the otherwise astute Matt Chapman is wrong in saying the three-year-olds should be taking on the older horses and the Commonwealth Cup has no place at Royal Ascot. It is a worthy addition, leaving the clash of the generations for Newmarket and York.
Racing is about the horse and jockeyship, so I do not understand the gripe about the start of the Queen’s Vase. Reducing the distance is a good idea and if a horse runs wide on the first bend then that is simply fate. The same thing could happen if the race remained over 2-miles. A little bit of jeopardy has never done racing any harm.
Finally I want to repeat what I wrote quite recently. In the Chesham 2-year-olds were asked to carry 9-st 3lbs, 3-lbs more than 3-year-olds are asked to carry in the Derby. This is plainly absurd. In my opinion 2-year-olds should never be asked to carry more than 8-st 10lbs. They are babies. Immature when compared to a 3-year-old. This is a matter in need of discussion and debate, and then change should come about.
But from beginning to end Royal Ascot was a roaring success. Role on next year.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.