Hello from Royal Ascot.
I’ve had the pleasure of working for Lloyd Bell for many years now. Mostly on golfing events such as the Qatar Masters in Doha whilst I lived in the Middle East based in Dubai. Having only recently returned to live in London, there has been one thing on my mind and that was to get to know Britain at it’s best again. Let’s forget the weather, I was always prepared for that to be a shock to the system after acclimatising to Middle East temperatures, but I wanted to remember why the country we live in is so brilliant. The diversity, the quaintness and the atmospheres that sporting occasions bring. With all of that in mind, what better way to re-adjust to English life than at Royal Ascot.
It’s my first time at the Royal meeting, but not my first major horse racing meet. I’ve been lucky enough in my sports presentation career to have visited some of the best. The Melbourne Cup in 2012 was a truly unforgettable event. I attended on a day when HRH Prince of Wales and the Dutchess of Cornwall graced Flemington with their presence. At the time, I was unaware my fleeting Royal meetings would continue in Berkshire a few years later. I have also covered the Dubai World Cup many times. An event which throws everything and the kitchen sink at it to make the world take notice. By ‘everything’ I mean, fireworks, pop stars, fly-by’s, parachuters and by ‘kitchen sink’, I mean a cool $10 million in prize money. The Melbourne Cup may stop a nation, but the Dubai World Cup does it’s best to get the world talking.
As I type this blog however, on the morning of the fifth and final day of my first Royal Ascot, I can safely say, nothing compares. It has everything. The Royal panache, tradition and excitement, the atmosphere, the wonderful and often eccentric outfits, the stars and traditional band-stand singing to end the day. Ascot is such a glorious venue, not even the threat of rain for most of the week punctuated with the occasional downpour has stopped thousands attending and bringing that unique British flavor to the sporting spectacle.
And onto that sporting spectacle. It’s all well and good having the Royal family attend each day, the stars stride through the gates underneath a flood of photographers and the mass sing-alongs, but if the racing on the course doesn’t match up, there would be somewhat a feeling of an anti-climax. Safe to say, that hasn’t been the case and has never been in my time watching Royal Ascot from a far. We’ve seen a plethora of highlights and milestones being hit this week. None least seeing legendary trainer Adien O’Brien get his half-century of Royal Ascot career wins and get underway with his second half-century. Even for Aiden, seeing Order of St George storm to victory in The Gold Cup would have been mesmorising. And what a day to do it, shortly after England grabbed a last gasp winner against Wales at Euro 2016. Seeing Frankie Dettori back to his best, smiling and looking for win number five of the week on the final day in the star-studded Golden Jubilee Stakes has been a joy. His biggest win onboard Across The Stars trained by Sir Michael Stoute, now on 74 wins at Royal Ascot and one away from equalling the late great Sir Henry Cecil’s record of 75. Karl Burke back at the very top of horse racing seeing his trained Quiet Reflection finish unbelievably strongly in the Commonwealth Cup with an emotional jockey, Dougie Costello securing his first Group 1 winner having made the step-up from jump racing. There have also been wins for France with Qemah in the Coronation Stakes and a good week for Dubai’s Godolphin Stables following four wins for Sheik Mohammed. I could of course go on, Royal Ascot is the pinnacle of British horse racing and for me, who loves to tell stories, we haven’t been short on stories this week. The week has been full of incredible highlights both on and off the course and we’re not finished just yet. The final day will, I’m sure, round off proceedings for 2016 in marvelous fashion, none least when the Diamond Jubilee Stakes gets underway at 4.20pm. The prestigious Group 1 sprint sees the world come to Ascot with Australia, Hong Kong and the USA all hoping to dampen the British spirit, even more so than the weather. Will Frankie make it win number five for the week with Magical Memory? It’s worth remembering that Dettori has never finished anywhere but first when he has ridden the four-year old.
Well, as the gates open for the final time at Royal Ascot 2016, I better get to work. Working for Lloyd Bell has once again been a pleasure, rewarding and exciting and as I attempt to reintegrate back into British life… I can’t think of a better place to do so than Royal Ascot.
See you next year, Tom