Monday, June 22, 2020

How Did I Manage to Lose: Royal Ascot Post-Mortem

Anyone who loves horse racing had a grand old time of it last week. Royal Ascot without all the fashion frippery and the royalist groveling was pure pleasure  – with many of the best horses around showing their paces. The relative shortage of foreign raiders was a slight blemish (even Aidan O’Brien’s numbers were down) but it was nice to see Wesley Ward’s courage in bringing horses from the USA being rewarded through Campanelle.

I had ten winners and a number of highly-priced placed horses over the five days but still managed to end up losing - narrowly. The main reason for that is that with all the races being televised, and the quality of the racing, I was tempted into betting on nearly every race rather than confining myself to my best fancied horses. Not very professional from a gambling viewpoint but I’m in it mainly for the excitement of the engagement. A secondary reason was that my best (and biggest bet) of the meeting, Summerghand in the Wokingham Stakes, was beaten by a whisker. That would have moved me substantially into profit. He’s a curse that horse – forever making a good show in the big sprints but not quite getting there. Another horse that blotted my betting book was Blue Mist in the opening race on Saturday. He was given a stinking ride (slowly away, stuck behind a wall of horses, denied a clear run three times) by Jason Watson – a jockey who has never convinced me as the right man for  Roger Charlton’s estimable stable.

Aidan O’Brien had four winners, all of whom I backed, but overall was a little disappointing. Circus Maximus in the Queen Anne and Battleground in the Chesham were the most impressive. Sir Dragonet let us down yet again and, apart from Battleground, O’Brien’s two year olds under performed. The highlights of the week were Stradivarius in the Gold Cup and Baattash in the King’s Stand – an exceptional stayer and a start sprinter. The middle-distance horses who ran already in the Guineas did poorly, and some touted Derby types disappointed – especially O’Brien’s Mogul. My personal highlight was Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star (see image) winning the Coronation Cup with Frankie Dettori on board – and carrying my money. She easily accounted for the much touted Quadrilateral. 

Anyway, overall it was great fun and I for one did not feel that the absence of crowds detracted from the enjoyment. The horses were more relaxed and the actual racing itself was completely unaffected. I’m sure the whole thing generated an upward surge in the technological awareness of the racing community. All kinds of old buffers were gamely doing their Zoom interviews in their front rooms with their flutes of champagne at hand and racing photographs decorating the walls in the background. And it would be churlish not to mention the pleasure of spending five days in the company of the gorgeous and elegant Francesca as she dispensed her formidable equine wisdom. A real thoroughbred.