Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Royal Ascot review (1)

Gee, that was a great first day of Royal Ascot.  Training performance of the day?  Well, only one candidate for that: Eugene Stanford sending out Two Minds (well backed) to win at Kempton on his first start for over three years (or, to be more precise, his first start since 3rd May 2010, and only the fourth run of his life).  That was virtuoso training, and nothing achieved at Ascot this afternoon can top that.  Eugene, of course, won't make the headlines; and similarly I haven't heard anyone praise the ride put in by Frankie Dettori on the 25/1 shot Mshawish (who finished fourth) in the St. James's Palace Stakes, which was as good as any you'd see.  But as it wasn't a big-race winner no one will notice.  Such is life.

Of our overseas raiders, the surprise was to find that even seemingly sensible Aussies had been taken in by the Twitter publicity of @AnimalKingdomAUS to the extent that they believed that this American horse, trained in America (although in recent weeks trained in Lambourn) by an Englishman and bred by a Brazilian stallion from a German mare, was an Australian representative in the Queen Anne.  I hope that, now that he ran poorly, they'll have come round to realising the error of their ways.  The naturalized Aussie (the NZ-bred Shamexpress) ran as well as one could hope in the King's Stand, beaten only four lengths, and he's done his connections proud, which is nice.

One of Newmarket's South African residents Shea Shea (pictured in this paragraph) ran really well in the King's Stand, and might even have won it had things gone a bit differently.  He should have a very good chance if he backs up on Saturday.  He ought to find that feasible as he wasn't given a hard time today at all.  We (ie Newmarket) have another of our South African imports running tomorrow: Dancewiththedevil, who is now trained by Roger Varian (and who is pictured in the first couple of paragraphs).  She's been in work for months so ought to be fit, but still looks heavy enough, so we'll just have to see how she gets on.

Our street's runner La Estrella (pictured in this paragraph recently, ridden by his trainer) predictably cut no ice, but overall I really enjoyed the TV coverage of Ascot.  It's not as good as it used to be, but that's inevitable bearing in mind that the star of the show (James Sherwood) is no longer on the payroll.  Gina Bryce did well, but she's too nice to step seamlessly into his shoes.  With him absent, it was left to Seamie Heffernan to be the star.  TV producers must hate Seamie winning a big Flat race as much as they must hate Davy Russell doing so over jumps: both jockeys are sensible, modest, unsensationalist, level-headed, unassuming and balanced, ie they display all the qualities which those who promote the mounted post-race interview most despise.  He went up even further (if that's possible) in my esteem for his interview immediately after winning the Coventry - and I hero-worshipped him already, not least because of Jamie Spencer's comment in the Racing Post after he rode the Oaks winner last year: "He rivals Joe Fanning for the title of the nicest man in the weighing room".  And that's high praise indeed.

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