The Secret Racegoer maintains his dignity at Royal Ascot
The Secret Racegoer reports back from Royal Ascot on the welcome return of the Queen, delightful companions, sidetracked by rugby, getting a dodgy racecard and just about maintaining dignity
So that’s a wrap – the five days of Royal Ascot action have come to an end.
There were times when the Secret Racegoer thought the crowds, limited to 12,000 although it never seemed like the daily cap was reached, were subdued.
But there was a buzz in the air on Saturday not least because the Queen was making her one and only visit of the week.
And there’s no denying that when her Rolls Royce pulled into the parade-ring (pictured), the cheers and applause matched the level a crowd five times the size could have made.
As the week progressed, the size of the Royal Enclosure inside the cavernous stand occupied a bigger area than 2019 but got smaller as the week went on, possibly to afford more protection from the elements for Queen Anne enclosure patrons.
It had been five days that encapsulated the British summer, beginning with wilting heat, via driving rain that nearly resulted in the loss of a day’s racing, to a dry but chilly final day before it rained again, just as the community singing around the bandstand got underway.
For the Secret Racegoer’s delightful companion on Friday the possibility of wearing her hat on top of a rain hood was seriously considered.
The combination of a smaller Royal Enclosure and people wanting to get out of the rain meant sharing tables became a necessity. This had the pleasing outcome of conversation with total strangers.
There was the proud mum who was able to tell the Secret Racegoer that she’d just heard her daughter had been offered her first “proper job” – a position with the Racing Post.
It was she said “starting on the bottom rung” but it was clear how delighted mum was at the news.
Whilst in the company of the proud mum, the Secret Racegoer was concentrating very hard on his sushi box, having been seduced earlier in the week by a free sample.
The concentration was necessary as it’s not unknown for the Secret Racegoer to spill food down his front, and chopsticks greatly added to the risk. However, he came through unscathed, very much enjoying the offering of Taste Japan by Mai Taiko for a very reasonable £14.
This was in contrast to earlier in the week when a moment’s lapse of concentration meant the Secret Racegoer’s blue waistcoat was adorned with a large smear of soy sauce.
Given that a burger and fries was £12.50, the Japanese fair was good value. This, however, is something best kept to ourselves, because if Ascot think something is good value, they’ll quickly put the price up.
Later a table was shared with a gentleman who was watching the rugby Premiership semi-final between Bristol and Harlequins.
He was a Quins fan and the Secret Racegoer, sporting a London Irish tie, had to remind himself that being a ‘Hairyquins’ fan did not make him a bad person.
The match could go either way but the Quins fan had to leave at the behest of his delightful companions, mother and daughter it seemed, just as full-time beckoned with the scores level. At half-time Quins were losing 28-0.
Minutes later he returned, having freed himself of those who must be obeyed. The game had gone into extra time and, after the first 10-minute period the scores were still level.
Then, Harlequins edged into a seven-point lead. Bristol came back with an unconverted try to narrow the gap to two points.
Harlequins got another try and just as their fans were beginning to think they’d won, the TMO wanted the ref, Wayne Barnes, to check for a dangerous tackle.
The considered opinion of both the Quins fan and the Secret Racegoer was that it was an old-fashioned “proper rugby tackle”. “Yes” said the Quins fan “but we’re both old.”
Again, the Secret Racegoer reminded himself that such a comment did not make the Quins follower a bad person.
The tackle was fair, the try was good and Harlequins were through to the final.
The Secret Racegoer is of the opinion that the price of a racecard rarely represents good value. But, at £5 a pop the Ascot programme, purchased for a delightful companion who wanted it as a souvenir, was bordering on value for money.
That was until it was opened and was found to have already been marked-up with an X against fancied runners – a reminder of the days when tipsters roamed racecourse car parks with annotated programmes for sale at more than the advertised price.
The Secret Racegoer didn’t think the lady who sold him the card was running a side-line of selling tips.
Checking the performance of the previous owner’s picks for the day’s racing revealed they only got one selection placed: Chiefofchiefs at 14/1. Burger and chips were likely shunned.
One winner not graced with an X was the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Dream Of Dreams in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes. The veteran (7yo Dream Of Dreams) had finished runner-up twice in the last two runnings of the race but put in a powerful run under Ryan Moore in the final furlong to win by a length.
The veteran (trainer Sir Michael Stoute) watched the race intently and gave a little punch of the air as they crossed the line.
One would-be racegoer was refused entry for not wearing socks.
The Secret Racegoer also encountered a clothing issue. A new pair of morning suit trousers were slightly too big but just about maintained decency, although the need to stretch out one’s arms for a security scan nearly ended in the trousers responding to gravity.
The lady in the high-vis jacket saw the predicament and waved the Secret Racegoer through. Dignity just about survived.
♦The Secret Racegoer was talking to Mike Deasy