Donn's Articles » Decisions day at Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot is all about decisions; dichotomous ones, mainly.

1. Aer Lingus or Ryanair

If you are looking for a no-frills low-cost mode of transport that will get you there on time (cue celebratory tune) and drop you off in the general vicinity of Ascot Racecourse, then go blue and yellow. (Polystyrene container or china cup, it’s still the same tea.) And you never know, Midnight Oil might win the Ascot Stakes. (Don’t be disappointed if there are marquees on the hurdles track.)

If, on the other hand, you are planning to get caught up in the load-shedding-truck incident on the M50, which turns your leisurely amble to the airport (complete with intended lunch and a gently sipped triple espresso) into a stress-inducing sweatball, and if you are planning on high-tailing it down the concourse with a bag that puts up 1kg overweight under your arm, from which you would prefer not to discard your second pair of shoes, then probably best to keep flexibility on your side for a few dollars more.

Console yourself that half the Irish bloodstock industry seems to be in the same, eh, boat.

2. Talk to your fellow passenger or bury yourself in your newspaper

There are pros and cons. Bury yourself in your newspaper, and you fill the gaping holes in your Royal Ascot form book, arm yourself with popular expert opinion and Royal Ascot stats (did you know that The Queen has worn a blue hat just twice in the last 10 years?) that will be essential over the next few days for the purposes of betting and impressing your friends over a glasses of Pimm’s.

Speak to your fellow passenger, and you never know, you could unlock a veritable trove, he could be someone who owned the winner of the Moyglare Stud Stakes not so long ago and who would just love to have a runner at Royal Ascot. Not a winner, you understand. Just a runner. That’s this place for you.

3. Top hat and tails or Sunday suit

You can do either. Put on the top hat, and you can go anywhere that your pass allows. Doff the cap, however, and your rabbit runs are restricted.

If you don’t feel like dressing in the uniform, you can wear your good suit with the tie that your wife bought you (chinos and a polo shirt is not an option) on the condition that you reserved it for special occasions. But if you are going to do that, be sure to get there early. You need to plan your route from parade ring to betting ring to stand to winner’s enclosure without having access to the Royal Enclosure (don’t be fooled – there is more than one of them), strategically located to block your run. You don’t want a repeat of 2010 when a member of the bowler hat brigade stopped you: “Excuse me sir, are you lost?”

4. Give peace a chance, or give Declaration Of War another chance

These are not mutually exclusive. If you backed Aidan O’Brien’s colt in the Lockinge Stakes, a horse who shouldered the weight of Ballydoyle stable confidence – Hercules-like – that he did on his way to Newbury, the confidence that sent him off the 5/4 favourite, a Group 3 winner in a Group 1 race, then it makes sense that you should continue the momentum, even if you are essentially a pacifist.

One minute and 38 seconds later, and now you know why they backed him at Newbury. And you don’t really know why you didn’t back him at Ascot.

5. A round of applause or a minute’s silence for Henry Cecil


6. Back Dawn Approach or lay Dawn Approach

If this is Guineas Dawn Approach, or Dewhurst Dawn Approach, or National Stakes Dawn Approach, then off you go into the betting ring with your wheelbarrow. If it is Derby Dawn Approach, then click the red button.

And it’s easy to figure it out. It’s not the ground or the track or even the distance. Just scan the parade ring and see if you can see his buddy Leitir Mor. “Poor Leitir Mor has been busy, hasn’t he?” And there he is, looking a million dollars, Ronan Whelan already jocked up.

Dawn Approach’s record in Group races with Leitir Mor reads 1111. His record in Group races without Leitir Mor reads 0. Small sample size, but it could be significant. Now add another 1 to the former. That’s five for five in a Toronado thriller.

7. Paddy Power or Sole Power

If an owner comes up to you at Royal Ascot and tells you that the security guard at Dublin Airport told him (the owner) that you told him (the security guard) that his horse had a chance, only because he wouldn’t put your 100ml bottle of aftershave back into your bag without a tip (the security guard, that is, not the owner), oblivious to the fact that he was the owner (the owner, that is, not the security guard – you still with this?), then what do you do?

(a) apologise to said owner and say that you will never do it again
(b) ask the owner if he agrees
(c) arrange to meet him in the champagne bar afterwards

The owner, that is, not the security guard.

8. Watch the last through your binoculars from the stand and have a picnic in the car park afterwards, or watch the last on the big screen from the gate and make like a banana

Banana is the correct decision. And a couple of oranges and a bar of Toblerone for a fiver.

© The Irish Field, 22nd June 2013