I suspect if I told you how hard my job is I would be greeted by howls of derision and numerous offers to take my place, so I won’t do that, but I will say it is incredibly tiring during the Festivals, and the poor transport in and out of Ascot makes it so much worse than Cheltenham or even Glorious Goodwood, though it would be accurate to say the quality of racing more than makes up for it in the end.
Since they added a fifth day to Royal Ascot (Saturday used to be the Heath meeting, no top hat and tails), I have firmly believed the quality has tailed off as the week goes on (with Tuesday easily the best day), though if you like zillion runner handicaps I suppose you see things the other way?
Moving swiftly on to the racing proper, and I think the biggest individual gamble of the meeting to date went astray in the Albany Stakes when I was shocked to see Sandiva open up as short as 7/2 (4/1 in places) before being hammered on course down to 7/4 at the off. I saw bets of wads of cash (certainly in the thousands) being placed which came as a surprise to me in such a competitive looking race, and she certainly ran well enough in second place but was soundly beaten by the Satnav needing Kiyoshi, who won by just shy of four lengths despite taking the scenic route late on!
To my annoyance, Hillstar won the King Edward VII Stakes beating odds on favourite and Derby fourth Battle Of Marengo with plenty in hand. As someone who has been championing Sir Michael Stoute through the last couple of frankly dire years, I should have ben the one making the most of the stable now they are firing again but no, like a lamb to slaughter I listened to the official handicappers and went down in flames once again.
As for the Coronation Stakes, well it would be honest to say Richard Hughes was not top of my “jockey of the month” charts after his ride on Wentworth earlier in the week, which may explain why I was so happy to bypass Sky Lantern to my obvious cost. A brilliant ride on a quite superb filly saw him cruise to the front when needed and soon put plenty of daylight between himself and French runner up Kenhope (four lengths to be precise), but just how good is French 1000 Guineas winner Flotilla who beat the same filly over ten lengths I wonder? One thing you do notice when it comes to a meeting like this is that there are so many well known and previously backed horses that it is a regular occurrence to miss a winner that you have backed before, leading to all sorts of Anglo Saxon language and Forgotten Voice as an example personally, after the eight year old took the Wolverton Handicap for the seemingly unstoppable Nicky Henderson. I have backed him God knows how many times starting in his previous life with Jeremy Noseda, where they always thought a heck of a lot of the son of Danehill Dancer. I remember when he used to run in races such as the 2009 Sussex Stakes and Champion Stakes (both Group 1’s), peaking with an official flat racing of 115. Since transferred to the master jumps trainer, he was never going to go backwards and with 20/20 hindsight, he was thrown in off of 105 here.
Sometimes in this game you have to put your hand up and acknowledge that others know more than you or spot something that you just didn’t see. I did look at the form of Irish raider Leading Light and there was nothing wrong with his Group Three win at The Curragh but did anyone else note his breeding? By Montjeu (whose offspring invariably love cut in the ground and a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half) out of a Gone West mare (a mile or so average), and with a full brother who failed to stay over a mile and a quarter, why would you think he would stay this two miles? Fact is he did, and won staying on strongly as well so what do I (or the breeding industry) know I suppose, so it clearly wasn’t us who sent him off the 5/4 favourite!
One more race to go saw another handicap (funny how its always a handicap that ends the cards, just to make sure we heave no money left and are begging Bullseye style for our Bus Fare Home), and today was no exception. 25/1 was the price about the Kevin Ryan trained Lightning Cloud and although some punters may have backed him, I wasn’t one of them, and a look at his form tells me why! He was running off a rating four pounds higher than he had ever won from before, hadn’t won since September 2011 and was beaten seven and a quarter and ten lengths in has last two outings. For once I have no issue with failing to find this particular winner if I had a dozen chances, though someone did have a couple of hundred on to win that I saw, and must be feeling pretty smug!