With all due respect to the greatest flat racing meeting in the World bar none, please forgive a slightly muted, even shortened review of the final day as I finally stir from my pit after five days of 24/7 work for us poor much maligned racing hacks!
As an old fashioned sort of chap (or is that just old?), I found the old four day meeting was more than enough for me so an additional stretched day was never going to be popular, but that didn’t make the racing any less fascinating.
Race One saw the Richard Hannon trained Bunker heavily backed, largely on pre Ascot interviews with jockey Richard Hughes who had made it quite clear this was is banker of the week, yet 11/4 was far too skinny for my liking and I left the race well alone which turned out to be a wise move. The younger ones among you may not realise that Paul Cole has trained at the very top of this game in the dim and distant past with Generous the glaringly obvious example (Derby, Irish Derby etc.), and he could well be heading back in to the limelight thanks to Berkshire, who put a good looking field to bed with a devastating turn of foot. A trop value purchase at 60,000 Guineas, he is an interesting contender for next years classics and on breeding he may well have the speed for a Guineas AND the stamina for a Derby – an interesting career well worth following though I do know they have one they like even more at home so watch this space.
Sadly race two started well and went quickly downhill as you all know by now with Sir Tomas Chippendale winning for Lady Cecil and promptly collapsing and passing on with a suspected heart attack after the line. So many mixed emotions must have been close to impossible to collate for a yard that have only just lost their master, and I will settle for reporting a good race and a gallant victory.
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes at 3.45pm provided the spectacle we all expected but not the winner I personally wanted. Richard Hughes had left his Satnav at home before riding Rosdhu Queen who tried all sorts of routes after a tardy start and was closing rapidly before bottoming out close home, though I mustn’t let my finances take away from a classy win by Lethal Force, who is still only a relatively unexposed four year old. Two lengths was the winning margin as they flashed past the post, and if the son of Dark Angel (who cost just 8500 Euros at the sales) can be kept sound, he looks as if he can go to the very top of the sprinting tree this season, and beyond.
Why they programme a sprint to follow a sprint is beyond me, but next up was the Wokingham, a race I still struggle to solve after all these years. Each year I try again, and each year I fail, though at 100/1 for Chandlery that can’t surprise anyone, even me. He was nearer last than first as York Glory took the spoils, a second winner of the week for trainer Kevin Ryan, and the easiest one Jamie Spencer is likely to have at such a major meeting. One hard luck story did catch my eye as Rex Imperator went from one side of the track to the other looking for a decent route before finishing sixth – certainly one to keep an eye on if the handicapper didn’t spot the same thing that is!
As someone who has spent most the week extolling the virtues of the Sir Michael Stoute yard imagine how stupid I feel for failing to back Opinion, an 8/1 shot who won easily and without my money slowing him down in the next. He may be better than a handicapper but as it is not Sir Michael’s way to rush them out under a penalty, be warned as he may well be a lot higher rated next time we see him.
One race to go, and my money was on Frankie to break his duck for the meeting and my week was summed up nicely as he came home second after looking as if he could go past the winner at will. If Frankie though he could just get back among the winners at will then Jimmy Fortune got rid of those flights of fancy with as determined a ride as you will ever see on Chimera King to repel French challenger Shahwardi time and again and leave me catching the bus home.
So, in conclusion, this Ascot had everything and will take some topping. A Royal winner, the minute’s silence for Sir Henry Cecil, injuries, accidents, gambles, and outsiders – a reminder why we love this sport, win or lose – and will do forever.