Things We Learned » Perfect mix
There are many things that make Royal Ascot different, that set it apart from just about every other race meeting. There’s the royal thing for starters, and the cavalcade down the centre of the track (and no, the carriages were not four-wheel-drive this year), and the betting on the colour of the hat. A meeting at which you can back your first winner (or loser) a half an hour before the first race.
(Orange, by the way, which contrasted brilliantly with her blue coat, according to the cognoscenti. And it was just a coincidence that winning Gold Cup rider Ryan Moore was also clad in orange and blue, really.)
Here’s one though: their attitude towards commerce. Of course, Ascot is a business, just like every other business is a business, but it appears that profit maximisation is not the only objective. It may not even be one of the primary objectives.
Think of the extra revenue they could gain if they opened the (flood) gates to sponsorship for starters.
Oh there is the sporadic (top) hat-tilt to sponsorship, there is the Qipco thing and the Longines thing, and the Gold Cup In Honour Of The Queen’s 90th Birthday thing, but those agreements, whatever their nature, would appear to fit more neatly into the product placement category than into the sponsorship category.
You won’t find the King Edward VII Stakes being renamed the Freebets at Freebets.co.uk Stakes at Ascot, that’s for sure. Although Tercentenary really should sponsor more races, get their name out there more.
You see what Ascot did when they introduced a new race? The Commonwealth Cup? A race that plugged a gap in the three-year-old sprinting scene? They got rid of one.
The discontinuation of the Buckingham Palace Stakes, the seven-furlong handicap, was not universally popular, and you can easily make the case for the need for a seven-furlong handicap during the week. However, the point is that Ascot felt that they had to make room for the new race, create a space for it, not jettison it in on top of all that was already there. Not increase the number of races so that, in time, perhaps, if you really want to, you can increase the number of days.
Okay so they have increased the number of days relatively recently, from four to five, but that was on the back of Jubilee year, when the Saturday, Ascot Heath, became Royal Ascot too. So they just left it as it was then, five days instead of four, five days of Royal Ascot instead of four days of Royal Ascot and one day of Ascot Heath, after the five-day experiment in Jubilee year met with universal approval.
No, it’s five days, six races per day, and that’s good. It’s wall-to-wall quality, and it means that you leave the track every evening wanting just a little bit more, and thankful that you will be coming back in the morning for it. (More.)
Guineas gets stronger and stronger
Immediately after the 2000 Guineas was run, it looked like the form needed to be treated with a modicum of circumspection. The first three favourites, Air Force Blue, Stormy Antarctic and Marcel, finished third last, second last and last, and a 100/1 shot, the 90-rated Kentuckyconnection, finished fifth, beaten a total of five lengths.
Even before Royal Ascot, however, there were signs of strength. Sixth-placed Zonderland had been impressive in winning a listed race at Sandown and seventh-placed First Selection had finished second in the French 2000 Guineas. But this week, the Guineas form went sky high. Guineas winner Galileo Gold beat The Gurkha and Awtaad in the St James’s Palace Stakes on Tuesday, while on Wednesday, Guineas third Ribchester was impressive in winning the Jersey Stakes under a 5lb penalty.
It will be interesting now when the three-year-old milers take on their elders, but you suspect that the youngsters will have the upper hand.
Story of the week
Story of the week so far? Jennies Jewel.
Jarlath Fahey was having just his fifth runner in Britain in the last five years when Jennies Jewel lined up in the Ascot Stakes on Tuesday, and he had his mare in top form. Incidentally, four of his British runners are Jennies Jewel, and three of the runs were over hurdles.
Rider Ronan Whelan was having just his second ride in Britain this season, and he hadn’t ridden at Ascot in two years.
Whelan down-played the ride, she’s tough and she gallops, he said, so he just let her roll. If something else had wanted to go on, he would have been happy to sit in. But the trick is to know if the something else that wants to go on is going on to slowly or too quickly. To make all in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap, on soft ground, at Ascot, a track at which you have limited experience. To get the fractions right. It was some ride.
Of course, Whelan had a willing partner in Jennies Jewel. The Flemensfirth mare has run some mighty races over hurdles this season, against Cheltenham winners, second to Diamond King, second to Vroum Vroum Mag, second in the Grade 1 Champion Stayers’ Hurdle at Punchestown, and she translated that hurdles form to the flat, first at The Curragh on Guineas weekend, then at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.
It is a pity that her racing days are numbered. Hopefully her offspring will be as tough and as talented as she is.
It was refreshing to see how much Order Of St George’s Gold Cup win meant to Aidan O’Brien and to Team Ballydoyle.
The Gold Cup is not a stallion-making race, it does not have the commercial implications that a Guineas or a Derby has. Even so, Aidan O’Brien majors in it. First Yeats (and second and third and fourth), then Fame And Glory, then Leading Light, now Order Of St George. The latest one could be the best one yet.
Order Of St George was O’Brien’s 51st Royal Ascot winner, 40 minutes after he had his 50th with Even Song in the Ribblesdale. That is incredible. The late Sir Henry Cecil’s 75 is in sight.
Thought for the week
Shouldn’t Hugo Palmer’s filly We Are Ninety (fifth in the Ribblesdale on Thursday) have been re-named One Is Ninety, just for the week that was in it?
© The Irish Field, 18th June 2016