The Secret Racegoer at Royal Ascot: part two
The previously reported absence of a commentary of the Royal Procession on Royal Ascot’s opening day was, sadly, due to a technical issue and not a decision to spare racegoers from the turgid description of the carriages making their way down the straight mile.
Its return on the second day gave the commentator the opportunity to inform everyone that it was “a busy week for the Queen”.
The same commentator before racing also opined “The big question is, will the drying ground force jockeys to go in different directions?” The thought of it wasn’t worth thinking about.
One jockey who went in the right direction on virtually every occasion was Frankie Dettori, who rode four winners on the third day, not least on the superb Stradivarius (pictured).
The Ascot loos are always busy but the queues were longer as the anxiety started to get too much for the bookies, after three Frankie wins, who waited to lay off their liabilities.
Bladder comfort returned after Frankie’s mount Turgenov was runner-up in the fifth race on Thursday. Victorious jockey Harry Bentley, on 28/1 winner Biometric, spoiled Frankie’s party and saved the bookies’ bacon.
It was wet weather for the first two days and racegoers coped as best they could. The Secret Racegoer coped by staying in the bar where Ascot had joined Epsom and required £6 for a pint of Guinness.
Like King Canute, the Secret Racegoer knows when he is beaten and can’t hold back the tide of outrageous mispricing. Or something like that.
Those who seemed ill-equipped to deal with the rain were some of the TV crews from around the world. Our own ITV and Sky Sports Racing worked under large canopies, as did US network NBC. Ironically, the crews from sunny Australia and Dubai were less prepared and struggled under small umbrellas.
And not all the TV presenters were fully clued up. A young lady from Channel 6 (location unknown) asked the Secret Racegoer when the next race was. The first race, she was told, was off at 2.30, so still another two hours to go. Her forlorn look suggested jet-jag was taking its toll.
The rain held off after the second day and thoughts turned to the quintessential summer drink.
If Plymouth Gin Summer Cup doesn’t immediately spring to mind, you’re not alone. Yet that’s what Ascot decided to serve at some of its bars instead of Pimms.
This was to the consternation of bar staff who had to constantly explain that Plymouth Gin Summer Cup was much the same as Pimms. Many people thought otherwise.
“It doesn’t even look like Pimms” said a bar team member, proffering the view that if they’d sold Pimms the bar takings would have been much better.
The Secret Racegoer had previously wondered if anyone took notice of the banality of the closed-circuit TV offerings, which mostly supplied a diet of questions about hats and how wonderful the fine-dining was.
And then the answer was forthcoming. Gentleman racegoers noticed that their lady companions suddenly seemed to lose interest in such matters as the intricacies of handicapping. Their minds were elsewhere.
There, on the TV screens, being interviewed, was top chef Raymond Blanc.
And there, around the screens, were transfixed ladies. For three or four minutes their minds stayed with the love of food. Then the TV diet was back to hats.
There was one occupant of a hat who the Secret Racegoer didn’t hear being asked where her concoction came from. Possibly, because she stayed seated for quite some time, as it looked like manoeuvrability was somewhat tricky.
While she remained seated she had a smile on her face which concealed what she was thinking.
Maybe she was worrying about what would happen if the jockeys set off in different directions. Or maybe not.