Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Royal Ascot, day one

Well, wasn't the first day of Royal Ascot tremendously exciting? It would have been enough of a pleasure for residents of Newmarket even without the racing because we had a lovely day here as is illustrated by these four photographs (of part of the Godolphin string heading home along the bottom of the Heath, of some of Henry Cecil's horses heading down the hill to go to the Al Bahathri, of some of William Haggas' horses cantering later in the morning around Side Hill AW, and of our two-year-olds by Sir Percy, Tiger Hill and Barathea cantering up Long Hill AW during the last lot). As if the weather wasn't good enough, a further bonus came for Hannah and I during a trot around Side Hill when we were treated to both the closest sighting of a woodpecker I've ever seen (he shot out of a hedge within six feet of us, but sadly far too quickly for me to draw my camera, let alone switch it on, wait and then ask it to focus on him) and a great sighting of a fox meandering his leisurely way across one of the paddocks on Side Hill Stud. Those were two real treats. But then we had further treats in the afternoon, courtesy of the BBC and ATR. It used to be the case for decades that for racing fans, the fashion segments on the BBC's coverage of Royal Ascot was a cue to put the kettle on. And then James Sherwood arrived! During his reign, it was better to miss a race rather than miss even one of his pithy observations. And now, sadly, he has gone, so we are back to the time-honoured tradition of the fashion segments being as dull as ditchwater. This must, of course, be a relief for the female (and some male) racegoers who no longer have to go around Ascot looking over their shoulders for fear that they might cross his line of vision. But that's by the by: television is meant to be for the benefit of the viewers, not of the subjects. Instead we have to rely on the racing and its coverage to supply us with our share of thrills and brahmas - and, happily, yesterday's show disappointed in neither respect.

Unalloyed pleasure for me was the victory of the Robert Cowell-trained, Jim Crowley-ridden Prohibit in the King's Stand. It was lovely to see some lovely horses run really well in this, including Star Witness (pictured last Saturday morning), Overdose and Iver Bridge Lad (ditto, ridden by Kirsty Milczarek) - but the win really was a true source of pleasure. All concerned really deserved it. The victory of Canford Cliffs was lovely too, even if I'd have taken even more pleasure in seeing Goldikova salute. But really they are two wonderful horses and neither deserved to lose - and possibly if Peslier had made the weight of 8:11, rather than riding at 8:13 (he did weigh out at 8:12, but changing his boots afterwards ensured that 8:13 was the weight carried), then neither would have lost. But that's by the by. Even more controversial in this race was, of course, the decision to use Cape Blanco as a pace-maker for Canford Cliffs. The racing style of Canford Cliffs, and riding style of Hughes, meant that he would be having the last crack at Goldikova - which meant that a strongly-run race would suit him in particular. It was, therefore, plain that Goldikova's pacemaker could not be guaranteed to set a strong pace - hence, seemingly, the decision to run Cape Blanco (in a race which was woefully and bafflingly unsuitable for him) as a pacemaker for Canford Cliffs (both horses being part-owned by Coolmore, even though neither runs in any of the sets of colours which we have come to associate with Coolmore-owned horses). For much of the day, the unsolved mystery was why Cape Blanco was in the race - and I'd have to say that, when the penny finally dropped that he was there as a pace-maker, the dropping of that penny gave me no pleasure whatsoever. The victory of Frankel, of course, gave me and almost everyone else huge pleasure, even if I certainly neither wanted nor expected him to win quite in the way which he did. Still, the horse won the race, and I suppose it's hard to be too critical of tactics which lead to victory. And brahma of the day? The televised stewards' enquiry, of course. There is a body of opinion which says that televising stewards' enquiries is a good thing, but the counter-argument (that it generally opens cans of worms which are better remaining closed) was given a massive boost by the frankness with which the evidence therein was presented. Mind you, I'm probably flying in the face of my own argument here: didn't I say that television was mean to be for the benefit of the audience, rather than of the participants? Ah well - such subtle arguments are lost on the dogs, who chose to enjoy the first day of Royal Ascot in rather less complex fashion, as Gus and Bean are here shown demonstrating.

And now on to today, where two participants stand out, in my eyes anyway: So You Think in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes, and Kadouchski, ridden I am delighted to say by our friend Clare Lindop, in the 8.40 at Kempton.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Given your enjoyable morning followed by another exciting day at Royal Ascot and then a great run from Kadouchski tonight, i'd say you've had a pretty good day all round John!
I thought Frankie gave Rewilding a fantastic ride in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes. I know rules are rules and he got pulled up for excessive use, but i thought he used the whip in a very clever and efficient manner. Do you have any opinion on the ride John?
Hopefully we will be reading a little more about Clare Lindop in the next chapter too. Was the ride on Kadouchski a one off?