The Snout previews 5 Huge Days of Racing
National Hunt fans have their Greatest Show on Turf in March, but flat racing fans are treated to their version as for 5 days the racing calendar has complete focus on Royal Ascot, with 25 runner handicaps, precocious 2 year old sprints and no less than 8 Group 1’s to look forward to.
Conditions this year are slightly different to 12 months ago. I remember sat down researching for the week ahead on the Sunday looking out of the window to see harrowing thunderstorms softening Ascot’s turf, but this year the umbrella’s will be up for different reasons as racegoers will be looking to escape the heat of the sun as conditions really start to burn up. Connections of fast ground horses will certainly be rubbing their hands with glee but most of all after 40mm of watering was used today by ground-staff, there will be no excuses for any who run this week.
What to look forward to
The opening day of Royal Ascot can be likened to its National Hunt flagship festival’s curtain raiser. The excitement that surrounds these days are comparable to none else as we get to see so many of the world’s best horses in one day. Beginning with the Queen Anne ran over a straight mile, many favourite backers, and indeed accumulator backers, will be hoping to get off to a good start and put their faith in Lockinge hero Ribchester. However, an outside stall and quick conditions certainly pose question marks to his claims, as do the fact his pacemaker (anyone who watched the Lockinge will know I am using this term loosely) drawn on the other side.
Many punters favourite race will no doubt be the Kings Stand, as the 8 YO Goldream returns for another crack at the race he took a few years ago and even the very 2nd that day, Medician Man, returns as an 11 year old which will most likely be his swansong. But it is the 3 year old Lady Aurelia that dominates the market, but another outside stall and question marks about her ability against these seasoned sprinters remains.
We are also treated to a re-match of the 2000 Guineas as the unlucky Barney Roy seeks revenge against the imperious Churchill, with many others simply there to make up the numbers.
Josephine Gordon bids to become the first female rider to gain Royal Ascot success in 30 years as she is aboard Dream Castle in the Jersey Stakes, and it is a filly that stands in her way as the 1000 Guineas 3rd Daban looking a very likely contender. The highlight on Day 2 for me is the Royal Hunt Cup – a spectacle that shows near 30 runners blitzing down the sun-drenched turf which a winner needs a huge amount of luck in running – something which last years 2nd Librisa Breeze certainly did not get.
The Ascot Gold Cup
The Ascot Gold Cup this year is headed by last years victor Order Of St George. Another horse in the week-long accumulator, he holds huge claims for a stable that does so well at this meeting. Thursday is filled with difficult handicaps and even tougher Group 3 and 2 races for punters to get stuck into.
The race of the week takes place on Friday as the top 3 year old sprinters lock horns. Carravaggio, Harry Angel and Blue Point. Godolphin have recently purchased Clive Cox’s pocket rocket as he will no doubt be high class for some time to come, but as per the norm these days, standing in their way is Coolmore, whose son of Scat Daddy hit 45mph when romping home to Coventry glory last year.
Any last day chances?
On the final day where punters will either be skint from spending all their winnings on champagne, paying for their rented suit for be dry cleaned, or a tough punting week, it gets no easier with 2 handicaps including the Wokingham 6f spring which takes place 40 minutes after the top 6f sprinters do battle where The Tin Man and Magical Memory look to go one better than last year but again it is a Henry Candy sprinter in their way, Limato.
These five days are always a great summer festival of top class racing, and even if you cannot attend the Berkshire track people all over the country, and indeed even further afar, will be watching.