The Royal Procession at Royal Ascot
(Photo : The Mirror)
15 JUNE 2010 - 19 JUNE 2010
Racing’s greatest festival is Royal Ascot. The Melbourne Cup may stop a nation for a day, but the Royal Meeting stops the world for a week. That’s the truth about this phenomenal celebration of pomp, ceremony and the classiest exhibition of Thoroughbred endeavour, anywhere.
Fans of our sport are indebted to Queen Anne who transformed the naked heathland at Windsor Castle into the arena for England’s most famous sporting tradition in 1711. Since then more money, more pride, more pedigree and more champagne has been splurged on the outcome of the events of these four days than on any other sporting action anywhere.
It takes a special kind of animal to make the “cut” for Royal Ascot, let alone win there, and many of those that have distinguished themselves have long since graduated into racing and breeding’s Hall of Fame. The breed-shapers, from Hyperion to Ribot, Sadler’s Wells to Danehill, they all passed Ascot’s way, and who knows what this year’s events, commencing today, might hold?
THE FIRST DAY’S SPORT
Highlights of the first day always include the mid-summer “European Guineas”, the St James’s Palace Stakes (Gr1), which brings together the English Guineas winner, Makfi, the hero of the Irish version, Canford Cliffs, and the French horse Siyouni. Then there is the internationally contested (especially by a flotilla of Aussies), King’s Stand Stakes (Gr1) over five furlongs, which brings together some of the swiftest horses in the world, (JJ The Jet Plane excluded this year,) Borderlescott, Equiano and Kingsgate Native for the home contingent, while the David Hayes-trained Nicconi and Hussonet’s Grade One winning son, Gold Trail do duty for Australia.
Somehow, the respective 2010 Guineas winners in England, Ireland and France do not possess the same allure as you might expect of these races, so the St James’s Palace has an especially open look to it for this renewal. You can’t say that though, for the Kings Stand where the Europeans field the usual suspects (some of them looking decidedly long in the tooth these days), but the Australians have once again mounted a serious offensive. Their record in this race over the past couple of years suggests that this could be Australia’s day, which will help our friends from down under to get over the pasting they took at the hands of Germany on Sunday evening in Durban.
The Queen Anne Stakes (Gr1) traditionally brings together the best older milers, and in some respects, it could be dubbed the world championship of milers, so good have its outcomes been in the past. At least this one has lived up to its billing, as it matches last year’s three year old champion miler, Rip Van Winkle, the explosively in-form Paco Boy and the eight time Grade One winning filly, Goldikova. If you miss the other two, make sure you’re in front of your telly when this one comes up.
LE COUP D’OR :
NO YEATS THIS YEAR, BUT THERE’S STILL ANGUS GOLD OUT THERE
The most famous race, and the headliner at this celebrated meeting, is the Gold Cup, a marathon contest over 2,5miles. For the past four seasons, Summerhill resident sire, Solskjaer’s half-brother, Yeats has dominated the event, and has the distinction of being the only horse in the 200 year history of the race to have won it on four consecutive occasions. He won’t be there for the race this year, and it looks like a sub-par gathering of stayers. Nonetheless, we have gold in a different form in the shape of Sheikh Hamdan’s worldwide racing manager, Angus Gold.
One of our favourite parables flowing from Ascot is now two years old, when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II invited Angus to join the Royal Parade. We all know the Queen’s golden coach, and anyone who’s watched Tellytrack in recent years, will know what the Royal procession looks like. Having passed the grandstand the coach proceeds up the shute to the paddock. Once there, the Royal party alights, and proceeds to the Royal Box. On this occasion, as the party departed the paddock, one Aussie wag at the rail enquired: “Hey mate, who’s that bird with Angus Gold?” He obviously wasn’t a Royalist.