The Secret Racegoer at Royal Ascot: part one
The much heralded disruption to train journeys to Royal Ascot never really materialised as South Western Railway was determined to run trains for racegoers after the RMT union called its strike to coincide with the races to grab headlines and cause maximum inconvenience.
That said, there were plenty of passengers on other routes who were without trains or rammed into standing-room only travel.
The dispute between the RMT and the train operator is over securing the long-term future of train guards for reasons of health and safety.
The guard on the Ascot bound train had such a loud, shrill voice that passengers winced whenever there was an announcement. The Secret Racegoer is prepared to risk the health and safety issues rather than go through a repeat of the ear-piercing announcements.
Also doing his head was the two-hour pre-racing wittering on Ascot’s closed-circuit TV. It mainly seemed to comprise of asking racegoers where they got their hats and sampling the fine-dining.
“This is like the crab dish I sampled last year” said Rupert Bell “but with a new twist”. Probably a different crab.
Does anyone listen to this bland assault on the ear drums? It was a relief when the band struck up with the Star Wars theme.
Ahead of the royal procession some of the jockeys were introduced. “Here are two French jockeys who know what it is to win the Prix Diane, the equivalent of the French Oaks.” Quite so.
Either deliberately or due to technical problems there was no racecourse commentary for the opening day royal procession. That did come as something of a relief because it is often monotonous in tone and repetitive when heard over five days.
Only those in the carriages who have cadged a lift from Windsor Castle and the colour of the Queen’s hat changes from day-to-day. With no commentary there was some conjecture as to what colour HM wore as on some TV screens it looked blue and on others lilac.
“Here is the result of the photo-finish. The winning colour is lilac by a short-head of state.”
The opening race, The Queen Anne Stakes, saw last year’s 33/1 winner Accidental Agent remain firmly standing in the stalls when the gates opened. It reminded those of a certain age of the TV commercial for Hamlet cigars where the jockey lights a conciliatory cigar as the horse stands motionless.
It’s not known if Accidental Agent’s connections sought a cigar to take the pain away, but they could have stopped one of the young ladies in the Royal Enclosure who looked like posh cinema usherettes. Rather than the content of their tray illuminated by a little light, their tobacco wares are discretely covered by a black cloth.
Requests to see the items for sale reveals a range of smokes priced up to £75.
Those who did smoke had to go outside in the rain, which lasted all day, and must have reduced the £75 worth of pleasure.