Royal Ascot for many is the ultimate racing festival of the year. The royalty, the fashion, the class horses in competition for glory for their owners, trainers, jockeys and punting supporters is what makes it one of the world’s greatest racing festivals.
It is hard to argue otherwise, and any racing fan without some sort of a feeling of excitement and / or anticipation about this five day event is probably missing some sort of vital element of whatever goes into the make-up of the human condition.
There are so many aspects to this festival that excite people who otherwise have little interest in racing, it makes you wonder sometimes how our racing authorities generally fail to capitalise on this annual focus on Royal Ascot to invigorate more public interest in the day-to-day racing meetings outside of this event. And there is plenty of scope for that.
For all that the racing is top-class, and Ascot is a pretty decent racecourse in most aspects, my own personal experiences of the Royal meeting leave me a little bit cold. Too many people; too much noise; difficulty in getting a decent viewing position for those old-fashioned binocular viewers like me (although I do have what I consider to be the best image-stabilising binos you could find in my Canon 12×36 IS II 5’s) and just the general over-crowding and interminable queuing to get a drink or a bite to eat. Not for me!
But for all us racing fans, the question is, as it always was and always will be, who are going to be the winners? It always bugs me when racing commentators and pundits talk about ‘the punters being on top’ just because a few favourites have gone in. Whenever I hear that phrase said I bristle, because as someone who looks for the less considered but potentially over-priced chance in the market, it nearly always confirms that I have had a bad day. That said, it is not always so at Royal Ascot. Hot favourites win at Royal Ascot probably to a greater extent than they do in general throughout the year. Backing highly rated favourites at Royal Ascot may not make you particularly rich, but on the other hand, you will not lose much even in a bad year.
In the last Royal Ascot meetings, there have been 150 winning horses. Almost half of those winners (71 in fact) have been ridden by 6 still active jockeys who are Ryan Moore, William Buick, Jamie Doyle, Frankie Dettori, Adam Kirby and Jamie Spencer. And just over one third of those 150 winners (52 to be precise) have been trained by only 4 trainers – Aiden O’Brien, John Gosden, Sir Michael Stoute and Wesley Ward
As for my own fancies for the meeting, I must admit that I am not much of an ante-post punter. As such, I will not be investing until day-of-race markets are up, but a couple of horses do interest me in advance of the meeting. One is Mission Impassible, entered in the Coronation Stakes, for whom I made a case on my Champagne Kid service for the French 1000 Guineas. In that race, she suffered badly in running, but then went on to win next time out in a Group 2 at Chantilly. As a charge of Jean-Claude Rouget, a two-time winner of the Coronation Stakes, I’d be interested in her if she does take her place. For the intrepid ante-post punter, there is 33/1 currently available.
Another horse given a mention in this column a few weeks ago as one to follow, is Mark Johnston’s Dee Ex Bee. At the time I had seen him as an interesting type for the Queen’s Vase, but he has blown his cover somewhat by coming second in The Derby. He now carries an entry in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes, but his Epsom exploits now have him as short as 7/2 in a place for that event. There is also some 8/1 available for those who don’t mind the inherent risks of an ante-post bet.
Whatever your approach to the Royal meeting is, the best advice is to make sure you enjoy it. You will find elsewhere, many a word written by all and sundry pointing you in the direction of their own fancies. Much of what is written will turn out to be totally wrong. If you are getting lost in a sea of impossible-to-solve cavalry charge handicaps, bear in mind some of the facts presented above. Sometimes it pays not to ignore the obvious. Colour of the Queen’s hat? I’ll go for lime green on day one!