12 June 2017
The homework starts here for one of the biggest challenges of my year, but also one I am honoured to be asked to do- The commentary, broadcast live around the racecourse and beyond of the Royal Procession at Ascot.
One of my most cherished possessions is a painting which hangs above my desk at home of the scene in 2005 when Royal Ascot took at York, as the Landaus swept off the track and into the Royal Enclosure. Two years earlier I had been taken to hospital with a severely twisted arm after the late and much missed Alistair Haggis had persuaded me to give it a go! The rest, as they say, is history and I am humbled that I have been asked to put words to it again this year, more than a decade later.
The homework is intense- Buckingham Palace supply you with a list of 16 names, a little more than 2 hours before the 4 carriages, led by the Windsor Greys turn into the Golden Gates and head down the straight mile. The Royal Standard is raised as the Sovereign’s carriage turns into the paddock as the welcoming party waits to greet her, and the National Anthem is played.
Research throws up many wonderful anecdotes about the Royal guests, who one year included a former Captain of the Scotland Elephant Polo team!
My main sources remain covered by the Official Secrets Act, but let me assure you they do not include a reliance on search engine alone. I treasure the look on the face of an Australian journalist a couple of years ago who told me how thrilled he was that the Queen had the recently retired Catholic Archbishop of Sydney in one of the carriages.
He had told people ‘back home’ and it fell to me to point out that…er…the gentleman in question had his wife with him!!!
The perils of Google reliance!!
The Queens triumphs at Royal Ascot have been amongst my most prized ‘I was there moments’. There’s no pressure on for next week- honest!
By Mike Vince