IN normal times, the top-class action on the track at Royal Ascot would have been a five out of five, but given the circumstances “behind closed doors” it deserved a six out of five.
Two weeks and a day in from the resumption of racing, everyone involved – from the racecourse and the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) Resumption of Racing Group, to the trainers, the jockeys, the lads and ITV Racing – played a blinder and, above all, the horses were the stars of the show.
If this was racing’s shop window, this was one occasion when racing was the winner. The action on the course had a bit of everything and off it everyone adhered to the rules.
For the absent press, there was no shortage of stories; some big-priced winners, rags-to-riches tales of horses like King Edward VII winner Pyledriver – led out unsold at £10,000 as a yearling, now heading to Epsom for the Derby. Plus there was a rare royal two-year-old winner (of The Queen’s 24 Royal Ascot winners only three have been juveniles) in Tactical in the Windsor Castle, watched on the royal “box” rather than from the Royal Box at Ascot.
There was wide-margin brilliance mixed with never-say-die tenacity of the narrow victors and, capping them all, the marvellous exploits of Stradivarius winning his third Gold Cup – the mud-splattered cheeky little chestnut who never wins by far coming home 10 lengths clear.
Frankie Dettori proved once again, aged 49, he is currently the number one rider in the world. He proved that he is just as effective to the sound of silence as he is running on applause from crowds.
However, Jim Crowley pushed him all the way to the line as leading jockey, his six winners doubled his previous tally from all Royal Ascots, while Hollie Doyle, Tom Marquand, Kevin Stott and Thore Hammer Hansen made their Royal Ascot breakthroughs.
Stott’s breakthrough was probably bigger than just an Ascot one. After two winners in an hour on Saturday afternoon, including Hello Youmzain in the Diamond Jubilee, he was no more the northern journeyman but a Group One-winning jockey.
Ben Curtis, a jockey who cannot stop riding winners in the north, also got on the scoresheet aboard runaway Albany winner Dandalla, as did Rossa Ryan after winning on Highland Chief in the Golden Gates Handicap.
John Gosden was leading trainer again and did nothing to dispel the theory that the best horses in Britain seem to find a path to his Clarehaven Stables. That is a self-perpetuating virtuous circle, which is not going to change any time soon.
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June 25, 2020