Things We Learned » Highs of Royal Ascot

Highs of Royal Ascot

Highs of Royal Ascot?  Frankie Dettori’s Four.  Frankie Dettori’s Seven.  Top jockey again, first time since 2004.  Aidan O’Brien’s Five.  Top trainer again, fifth time in five years.  Blue Point and Japan and Stradivarius and Circus Maximus.  Hayley Turner.  Danny Tudhope. 

Lows?  The rain.  The whip bans.  More below.

Aidan O’Brien may have been the only Irish trainer to visit the winner’s enclosure during the week, but other Irish trainers had horses run very well in defeat. 

Ken Condon had just two runners at Royal Ascot 2019, and they both ran big races.  Romanised would have gone even closer than fourth, beaten less than two lengths, in the Queen Anne Stakes had he enjoyed a better run through the race, while Celtic Beauty belied big odds to finish second in the Albany Stakes.

Willie Mullins went close with Buildmeupbuttercup in the Ascot Stakes, while Max Dynamite ran well to finish third in the finale, the Queen Alexandra Stakes, a race in which the Gordon Elliott-trained Pallasator stayed on well to take second place, failing by just over a length to catch Cleonte in his bid to land back-to-back renewals of the event.

Master Of Reality ran a big race for Joseph O’Brien to finish third in the Gold Cup, just a length behind Stradivarius and only beaten a nose by Dee Ex Bee for second.  Latrobe ran well in the Wolferton Stakes on ground that should have been softer than ideal for him, while Numerian and Speak In Colours both ran well, both at big odds, in the Britannia and Diamond Jubilee respectively.

Forever In Dreams ran a massive race for Aidan Fogarty to finish second to Advertise in the Commonwealth Cup.  A close-up seventh in the Queen Mary Stakes last year when she was trained by Matthieu Palussiere, the Dream Ahead filly won a listed race at Haydock last month on her second run for Fogarty.  Bred by Con Marnane, and raced in the colours of Theresa Marnane until last week, she was sold at the Goffs London Sale on the day before Royal Ascot to the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate, who appeared to get some kick out of the day. 

Rule still the issue

Eleven riders fell foul of the whip rules at Royal Ascot.  Eleven riders in one week.  In five days.  In 30 races.  Something is not working. 

In order for a rule to work, in any walk of life, the downside of the consequences of breaking it must be stronger than the upside of the potential advantage to be gained.  It’s why the GAA introduced the black card.  It’s why FIFA upgraded a ‘professional’ foul from a yellow card offence to a red card offence.  The punishment has to be a sufficiently strong deterrent. 

The position of the whip rules in Britain as they stand at present is a position of disequilibrium.  They are not working.  The magnitude of the downside of breaking them is obviously not great enough compared to the magnitude of the potential advantage to be gained.

We have been here before.  The issue is with the rule.  Seven strikes.  The debate seems to have moved on to whether or not a horse should be allowed to keep the race if its rider has broken the whip rules, but that has moved on beyond the real issue: the rule.  The fundamental issue is with the rule.

Remember when there was a strong deterrent?  In 2011, when Christophe Soumillon was fined his share of the prize money after he won the Champion Stakes on Cirrus Des Aigles, after giving his horse what many deemed to be a top class ride?  That one was quickly reversed, and correctly so.

If you lack confidence in the punishment then you probably need to go back and have a look at the rule.  

Remember the fundamental reason for the whip rules in the first place: to prevent horses from being abused.  It seems that optics are more important than actualities in that regard, but even if that is the case, something isn’t right.  You know when you are watching a race if a jockey is giving a horse too hard a ride.  Horsemen and horsewomen know, stewards know, racing fans know.  When you are thinking to yourself, that’s more than enough now, put the whip down. 

When a jockey has obviously been too hard on a horse in a race, the punishment should probably be even more draconian than it is now.

But when a horse is going forward, responding to a jockey’s urgings, and the air-cushioned whip is being used judiciously, and when it is deemed in that instance that the jockey has broken a rule, and when that happens often, on the biggest stages, then surely you need to go back and have a look at the rule.

McCreery going well

Things didn’t go brilliantly for Willie McCreery at Royal Ascot, Ickworth was rearing in the stalls when they opened in the Queen Mary Stakes, but his horses continue to be in tremendous form.  After a treble at Gowran Park four weeks ago, the Kildare man had another treble at Tipperary last Sunday, courtesy of Sweetest Taboo in the five-furlong handicap, Memyselfandmoi in the seven-furlong maiden, and Killourney in the three-year-olds’ nine-furlong handicap. 

In the interim, he sent Raffaello out to win twice, at Gowran Park by three parts of a length from Airgead, and at Leopardstown, by a nose from Fancy Footings, under a 6lb penalty. 

Lots to like about Windracer

There was a lot to like about the performance that Windracer put up in winning the opening maiden at The Curragh on Thursday evening.

Jessica Harrington’s filly was not well drawn in stall 15 of 15, but Shane Foley had her out of the gate quickly and tacking across onto the inside rail.  The Stonestreet Stables filly probably had to use up at least a little energy in order to minimise the disadvantage of her outside draw, but it was an astute piece of riding by Foley and, once into her racing rhythm, she travelled nicely in front.  She was challenged by Love from the two-furlong marker, but she kept on really willingly in front.  In the end, she got home by a neck from Aidan O’Brien’s filly, with the pair of them pulling nicely clear of their field.

This could prove to be a really good fillies’ maiden.  Runner-up, Love, is a daughter of Galileo and a sister to Munster Oaks winner Flattering and to listed race winner Peach Tree, who won this race last year, and a half-sister to Lowther Stakes winner and Duchess of Cambridge Stakes winner Lucky Kristale.  Aidan O’Brien’s filly had made an encouraging debut at Leopardstown three weeks earlier, and she was strong in the market before Thursday’s race. 

The third filly, Innervisions, who ran a nice race to finish third, a promising debutante for the Niarchos Family and Willie McCreery, is a daughter of Fiesolana by Dubawi.  She is bred to be a talented filly.  And the winning time was a second faster than the time that Armory clocked in winning the colts’ maiden a half an hour later.

This fillies’ maiden was won last year by the afore-mentioned Peach Tree, with dual Guineas winner Hermosa back in fourth.  It was won in 2017 by Happily, who went on and won the Moyglare Stud Stakes and the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, in which she beat the colts, and it was won in 2015 by Alice Springs, who won the Falmouth Stakes and the Matron Stakes and the Sun Chariot Stakes the following year.

It will be very interesting to monitor Windracer’s progress now.  She had won a barrier trial, but this was her first run in a race, so she should progress from this.  Her trainer mentioned the Debutante Stakes and the Moyglare Stakes, and that looks like a good path for her now through the season. 

Thought for the week

There were 30 races at Royal Ascot this year, and there were 22 different winning owners.

© The Irish Field, 29th June 2019