Saturday, June 22, 2013

Royal Ascot review (2)

Conditions have been relatively benign during Royal Ascot, a meeting which rarely passes by entirely rain-free.  If conditions in east Berkshire are similar to those on the Cambridgeshire/Suffolk border, then race-goers will suffer showers this afternoon, but that's not too bad as today is the fifth and final day; and I don't think that anyone will have been rained on there thus far.  So that's good.  It goes without saying that I'd begin this latest Royal Ascot review with a weather update (and a ground one too - very firm, apparently, not that I can vouch for this myself, although I fear that a number of stiff horses might be able to do so) so I've done so now.

There wasn't, of course, a dry eye in the house on Thursday, what I'd call Gold Cup Day but what the marketeers would call Ladies' Day.  (Well, you'd hope that they'd call it Ladies' Day, but I fear that many of them will either call it Lady's Day, Ladie's Day, Ladys' Day, Ladys Day or Ladies Day).  I will, of course, mention Lady Jane Cecil, the Queen, Estimate and Joanna Morgan, who collectively made it a Ladies' Day which will never be forgotten by anyone watching through moist eyes either in person or on TV (with remarkable contributions, of course, from Gina Bryce's side-kick Brix, who either is or isn't related to Sarah Lund's boss in 'The Killing').  But I don't think that I need do more than mention their magic moments, because those topics have already been covered.

More surprising than the coverage which those winners received was the coverage which the Norfolk Stakes winner didn't receive.  Having become accustomed to hearing the more xenophobic members of the press-room (and I'm not referring only to John McCririck) spouting their indignation about the presence of Australian horses in Britain and suggesting that they've received more anabolic steroids than would happen in this country, I was pleasantly surprised when the USA-trained No Nay Never paraded before the Norfolk Stakes with the pundits all agreeing that he looked like a four-year-old amongst two-year-olds, and nobody seeing anything in odd in that.

Strange, isn't it?  You'd have thought that people (and, again, I'm not referring only to John McCririck) are either conspiracy-theorists or they aren't.  But if McCririck remains this selective about whom he targets for his rants, he'll be laying himself open to a charge from Barry Irwin that he isn't doing enough to combat drugs' use in British racing.  And that would never do.  Anyway, that's my bit of reviewing.  I felt that, by having titled the previous chapter 'Royal Ascot review (1)', I felt that I ought to make some sort of effort at making a second (partial) instalment.  And I've done it.

But I'll also make this a preview, particularly mentioning that I'm looking forward to seeing two of the local horses (one who has been local for a couple of years, the other who has been local for a couple of weeks).  Mount Athos (seen in the top paragraph in Rayes Lane on Tuesday morning heading over to gallop on the watered gallop on Racecourse Side; he's second in the picture, ridden by Sara Cumani, with Patrick Hills at the head of the string on his lead-horse) will be my horse to cheer in the Hardwicke, while our New South Welsh visitor Sea Siren (pictured in the second and third paragraphs on a nice sunny morning eight days ago under her pommie partner Helen Smith) will join our local stalwart Society Rock as our hope for the Diamond Jubilee.

We always get plenty of Aussies here at this time of year, and yesterday we had some really good visitors.  Leon Macdonald (the senior trainer in South Australia whose interstate haul includes such big races as the Caulfield Cup, VRC Derby and AJC Derby and who earlier this year received the Matrice Award, a life-time achievement award for contributions to racing and breeding in South Australia) called in to see us with his wife Pam and seven of the stable's patrons.  This was an opportunity to have a lovely day, during which I shared a terrific tour with them which was, largely thanks to the kindness and hospitality of Luca Cumani and of William Gittus of Jockey Club Estates, a very, very special treat.  If they enjoyed it half as much as I did, they'll have had a real day to remember.

Anyway, photos in the three paragraphs above are of Leon on Warren Hill in a chance meeting with Cox Plate-winning trainer Colin Little, into whom I enjoyed bumping into today as well; with Luca in Bedford House Stables; and with me outside the Jockey Club Rooms.  And the final photograph?  Well, it has to be Ian Mongan, who closed a very successful chapter in his life yesterday when he realised that he wasn't going to be able to make 9 stone at Goodwood yesterday evening.  Ian's enjoyed a magnificent career, highlighted by his Juddmonte win on Twice Over and his Royal Ascot double on Baddam - and also by his two wins on Grand Liaison last autumn.  He retires with a 100% record for this stable and with a massive bank of respect and affection from the racing community.  And with, I presume, at last a satisfied appetite. And also, I presume, with the ambition with which Roy Higgins retired (to be a fat old man).  He definitely deserves to achieve that aim.


David Winter said...

I am glad it just wasn't me who thought that the American sprinter looked like Arnie .....muscled up or what ????.is there some understanding within he press to stop whining about steroid abuse. ...?....if I was an owner with a horse in that race I would feel aggrieved that I did I didn't have a fair chance.
On a much lighter note : John , you brought back a lot of 2008 memories with the picture of you outside the main doors to the Jockey Club. It was through these doors that as the first " Outsiders" Christine and I were married amongst all the equine racing history on the most marvelous October day of that year. We were so taken with the art that some of the ceremonial by passed us
!!!!!. Hope this isn't a bore !!!!!! And wasting your blog !!!

Brian Jones said...

David Winter,

John can obviously speak/reply for himself but as a reader of the blog, and injecting here,your comments are a very welcome read/input...

good luck

Brian Jones said...

* interjecting

how apt... / inadvertently

John Berry said...

Very welcome comments, David. Lovely to hear that you were the first to avail yourselves of the opportunity to wed in the Jockey Club Rooms. The most special place, and none better for a special occasion for racing people.