Well, that was some week, wasn’t it? Royal Ascot is often cruel to me, despite much burning of midnight oil, but this year was different. It was, on both a sporting and a punting level, an excellent five days, and below are some of my personal highlights (along with a few lowlights as well)…
Top 3 Royal Ascot Sporting Highlights
He’s a machine. A horse of an altogether different colour. Frankel isn’t ‘just’ eleven races unbeaten. He’s bullied and brutalized his opposition into cowering submission with a consistency rarely seen at Group 1 level.
His eleven wins have come by an aggregate of 61.5 lengths, which is an average of 5.6 lengths!
Moreover, his seven Group 1 wins have come by an aggregate of 34 lengths, and an average of 4.86 lengths.
His clock times are stupendous. He’s received a new record high Timeform flat rating of 146. (Timeform have only been going for about 65 years, so he’s not beaten much there…!)
I was there, agog, on Tuesday. 97.85 seconds after the gates opened, my mouth gaping like a giant venus fly trap, I could scarcely believe what I was seeing. The magnificent Frankel marked his eleventh race unbeaten with an eleven length victory. It might have been more if he’d been ridden right out to the line. But that would have been more merciless than… well, Ming The Merciless after a very bad night’s sleep.
If you missed the run, here’s a video of it. Even if you’ve seen it ten times already (like me), it’s still worth watching again! [Incidentally, credit where it’s due, a rare fine commentary from Aussie Jim.]
2. Hats off to the Queen!
In truth, Frankel is about as far clear in my top three sporting highlights as he was in the Queen Anne Stakes. But there were other most noteworthy sporting incidents.
In this Diamond Jubilee year, when we’ve been reminded time and again both of the general public affection for ‘Her Maj’, and of HRH’s own affection for horses, it was a treat to see her bag another winner at her own meeting. In her own race!
Yes, The Queen’s Vase was won by Her Majesty The Queen’s filly, Estimate, who put five lengths between herself and reliable form stick, Athens. HRH’s delight was crystal clear, and it was Sheikh Mohammed in the Royal Box who got to share the moment with a visibly chuffed matriarch.
The fun didn’t stop there, though, as the Duke of Edinburgh had long been booked to present the prize!
So it was that Mr P Regina presented the honours to Mrs E Regina, and – without sounding too gushing and gooey – the twinkle in their eyes was a priceless moment.
3. Black Caviar remains unbeaten. Just!
Well, those Aussies, they’re a sporting lot. They love to bash us poms. And they’d come in their thousands to see a spot of ritual pom-bashing on Saturday afternoon, in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Black Caviar was the vehicle – literally and metaphorically – for this home humiliation. Or so it was supposed to be.
She’s an imposing sort is Black Caviar. A proper unit of a mare. And she’s quick. Very quick.
But this day, she was average – by her own stratospheric standards – and her jockey, Luke Nolen, was moderate by any standards.
Nolen stopped riding in the last half furlong, a decision which nearly cost him the race, and Black Caviar her unbeaten record, which now stretches to 22 races.
Of course, the papers had a field day. Black Caviar is known as ‘The Wonder from Down Under’. Well played to the Racing Post for their triumphant ‘The Blunder from Down Under’ – great stuff.
The tabloids took an altogether more stereotypical stance, as you might expect. The Sunday Mirror chimed, “Strewth! Australia’s flying Sheila almost got mugged by a couple of French fillies on the final day of Royal Ascot.” Er, great journalism, guys. (Not).
By all accounts, Black Caviar wasn’t her normal self. And that’s fair enough. She’d travelled half way around the world. She was racing on stickier ground that she would have done previously. And she was on a more testing strip than she – and clearly Nolen – was expecting.
Again, in fairness, I thought Nolen was gracious post-race. He looked extremely sheepish and admitted to his own shortcomings in the ride. Compare and contrast that with our own Frankie Dettori, who refused to blame himself for the awful steering he did on Farhh earlier in the week.
If it was a borderline disgraceful ride, it was a most graceful – or at least, gracious – apology subsequently from the diminutive Aussie.
And, let’s be clear, we were delighted she (Black Caviar) and they (Peter Moody and Luke Nolen) came to visit.
Royal Ascot Sporting Lowlight
In every triumph, there is at least some disaster. This week was no exception. The clear lowlight of the week was the loss of the very promising The Nile, who broke down and unseated William Buick in the St James Palace Stakes.
There’s not much more to say about it – certainly not much more to say than Ian said here, other than it was a very sad loss.
Top 3 Royal Ascot Punting Highlights
My bet of the week ran in a super competitive handicap. It was fashioned in a non-standard way, because I perceived the horse would win based on inspection of his previous contest, rather than a deep analysis of the form book.
In the event, I got away with it somewhat, thanks in the main to a fantastic – and, to some degree, fortuitous – ride from the aforementioned William Buick.
Buick timed his run on the game Gatewood to perfection, where others in the race had their horses too far back. As the jam stick arrived, Buick had mown down the pace setting Mijhaar, just before he would have been mown down himself by the very fast-finishing Black Spirit.
7/2 was the price taken by yours truly, and enough was invested to ensure a winning week, despite some of the frustrations about which you’ll read shortly if you’re the persistent type…
2. Thursday 🙂
Reckless Abandon, Princess Highway, Fast Or Free, Energizer. Say no more. (Actually, I will say a little more in a moment…)
3. Sea Moon
A smaller wager but a satisfying one, as Sir Michael Stoute was able to shut the doom merchants up ‘good and proper’ with his second winner of the week, from just seven runners.
Sea Moon had a strong profile fit, and Sir Michael has long been known for his patience with middle distance horses (remember Pilsudski, for instance? 6th and 8th as a two year old, won two handicaps as a three year old, before winning six Group 1’s as a four and five year old).
This chap is one to keep on side all season, as he’s likely to improve again… and maybe, again after that!
Top 3 Royal Ascot Punting Lowlights
There were a few in truth.
1. The first two days
Betting losers is always tough, especially at the top meetings when you’ve put the legwork in. Betting losers that you’ve also tipped to the wider public is very tough (believe me!).
I don’t really like tipping on here, and although there has been a conscious move to include more of it this year (at your request), it’s a classic double edged sword, which can quickly go against you. Suffice it to say that two days in, I was fearing a reprisal of last year’s horror Royal Ascot (my worst big meeting of punting ever).
Thankfully, Wednesday absolved me of my hitherto errant selections and put me (and you, if you followed me) back on top.
2. Those fecking placepots!!!
I like to think I’m a pretty good player of placepots. My records support this notion, and elevate it marginally beyond pure narcissism.
But last week was a shocker. Gettable big pots, from massive pools, all passed me by.
Tuesday – How did I not have Hermival?! Plenty of cover in the rest of the races.
Wednesday – How did I not have either Chachamaidee or Lay Time?! Nahrain was my banker and the writing was on the wall with her pre-race drift. Lack of fitness clear. All over the rest of the races.
Thursday – How did I not have Saddler’s Rock or Opinion Poll?!!! Incredibly, having made very strong claims for – and punted accordingly, see 3. below – Saddler’s Rock and Opinion Poll, I banked on Fame And Glory. Now I did lay him for a place to recoup my stakes, and that was the ‘right thing to do’. But, please… I should have had that one, and it paid over £1500 for a quid.
Friday – OK, just not good enough. I’d have had to pick eight in the Coronation Stakes to find a placed horse.
Saturday – The early bath. Confidence low, I did a much smaller perm here, which included Move To Strike as banker material in the first. At no point did he live up to his name, and was unplaced. Again, a place lay saver recouped a part of my perm stake.
Poor, poor show.
3. The Gold Cup
I really felt strongly about the chances of both Opinion Poll and, more so, Saddler’s Rock in this race. I backed both, win only of course, with the stake weighting significantly in favour of Saddler’s Rock.
Second and third, both closing at the death, the second impeded by the winner, and the 4/5 favourite nowhere.
OK, I know there’s only supposed to be three in a top three, but it was that sort of a week!
Seconditis is a terrible affliction for a punter. Bigfieldwinonlyseconditis is like shingles, mumps, and gonorrhoea all rolled into one. But bigfieldwinonlyclearwinneronthewrongsideofthecourseseconditis is something you just don’t want.
Jamesie was an inspired shout (though I say it myself) in the Buckingham Palace Stakes. He won the near side race by half a length. Alas, Eton Forever finally decided that today would be the day to put best hoof forward. And how.
In truth, he was much the best horse in the race, and I can have little complaint. But it’s frustrating when you’re holding a big priced win only voucher in such a context.
Then there was Waffle. Second in last year’s Wokingham, he again ran an absolute stormer to finish… second in this year’s Wokingham. Backed at 18’s early, he raced on the near side and finished a length and a quarter behind the winner on the far side, Dandy Boy.
That the next horse home on the near side finished seventh (Scarf, who I’d also backed!) tells you something of the merit of his performance.
My thanks to all 80-odd of you who entered the Royal Ascot naps competition on the forum.
There was a prize for the best cumulative odds performance, and a prize for the highest winning nap. Thanks to Dandy Boy’s 33/1 success on Saturday, romjim scooped both prizes in one fell swoop.
Very unlucky in second was Jacko1467, who was inspired for most of the week, and finished +27 points, but – alas – them’s the breaks.
We’ll do it all again soon, perhaps for Glorious Goodwood, but for now there’s £150 winging its way to chez romjim.
So that was my Royal Ascot. How was yours? Highlights? Lowlights? Leave a comment and share your joy/pain.