What’s a pound worth? On the first day of Royal Ascot today, Goldikova’s jockey Olivier Peslier was overweight by two of ‘em. Only one of which was declared before the much anticipated Queen Anne Stakes began. So he picked up a £650 fine for the extra, extra weight (explained by him changing into heavier riding boots). But what was the true cost of his misdemeanour? Aboard the wonderful Goldikova, he was beaten barely a length into 2nd by Canford Cliffs. Does that distance represent a couple of lengths’ worth? Not far off over a mile, I’ll wager. The mare ran a cracking race and was beaten by a bull of a horse at the top of his game in a tactical, cat and mouse battle. A compelling race delivering the scripted finish. In truth, this is mischievous side-story. Canford looked to have more in his locker, but it might have been closer if Goldikova had been steered by a more streamlined jockey.
I hadn’t realised in Monday’s preview that Cape Blanco would be ridden as a pacemaker. Derek Smith and Michael Tabor of the Coolmore operation have recently bought into the Canford Cliffs ownership partnership, the Heffer Syndicate. These two guys also own Cape Blanco and explains why, to my surprise, this dual Group 1 winner and bearer of my combi exacta wedge was ridden for maximum speed for 6 ½ furlongs. Anothermugpunt ©
No less compelling was Frankel’s performance in the St James’ Palace Stakes. He showed again his scintillating turn of foot. But he showed it after only 2 ½ furlongs when Queally, bizarrely, decided to kick for home. Frankel took off like a scalded cat round the bend, driven by a jockey either panicking that his useless pacemaker had opened up too big a gap, or chasing another thumping 10 length victory. Either way, Queally looked like a prat as his charge was being reeled in by Zoffany 200 yards from home. But he held on. And for 7/8ths of the race Frankel looked like the superstar everyone wants him to be. A puff of the cheeks from Sir H told its own story.
The multi-national King’s Stand Stakes featured a raft of highly strung, pepped up, super charged sprinters strutting a full range of nervous ticks, pulls and bucks before the start. It was won by Prohibit. A first group success for trainer/jockey combination Robert Cowell and Jim Crowley.
Elsewhere, my best return of the day was a win with Nicky Henderson’s Veiled and an each way return with Emyn Lodge, both in the Ascot Stakes. I once backed Veiled for the Triumph Hurdle when with small-time trainer Jeff Pearce. He never showed up in that race. But he did today.
Tomorrow….hmmm. Doesn’t excite me as much as today. Maybe I’m feeling a bit After The Lord Mayor’s Show. But let’s get stuck in. I like the look of Western Aristocrat in a muddling Jersey at 13/2. Seta has been a slow learner in Group races these last two years, but I’m prepared to take another chance that Cumani has her right for this slightly less demanding Windsor Forest event. The Prince of Wales doesn’t get the pulse racing either. But I loved Planteur’s win in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp 6 weeks ago when she saw off one of my favourite fillies, Sarafina. That one has subsequently come out again and won well. So I’ll take Planteur against the odds-on, hotpot Ballydoyle runner So You Think.
And so to the 30 runner Royal Hunt Cup. A tangled mystery wrapped up in an impenetrable sudoku. Where to start… I love Fareer over this course and distance. But off top weight I’m hesitant (and the application of blinkers, following tongue-ties earlier hints at lottery time). So I may also look to the other end of the handicap where lurks Bronze Prince, a lightly raced progressive contender from John Gosden. Probably split my e-w stake on these two.
Nothing in the Queen Mary. Last up, the Sandringham. Blimey. Another tough one. Can’t find an angle on many of these. Cumani’s plot horse, Dubai Queen looks credible, but a bit short for my liking. Maybe Secret Love who wasn’t disgraced last time in Classic-winning Dancing Rain’s Oaks trial and has a more realistic chance here.
Ding, ding. Round 2.