The Secret Racegoer zooms in on Royal Ascot’s “exclusive” preview
The Secret Racegoer make his zoom debut by joining an “exclusive” Royal Ascot preview
The Secret Racegoer may not be going to Royal Ascot this year but he’s joined the zoom age with the racecourse visiting Racing Hub Towers via the online meeting facility that’s inconveniently required many “working at home” to attend conferences and one-to-one appointments.
There will be plenty of wage slaves looking at their Outlook calendars this week and cursing link-ups scheduled for the next four days between 1pm and 5pm.
At just the right time was Ascot’s “exclusive” Royal Meeting Preview – exclusive to all those who received an email – inviting them to login at Monday teatime to have host Ed Chamberlain discuss the 2020 non-normal event with George Baker, Richard Hoiles and Brough Scott.
Setting the scene was Juliet Slot, Ascot’s chief commercial office, who is leaving her post later this summer. She introduced a note of controversy when talking about the course’s Royal Ascot At Home initiative, encouraging people to dress-up when watching on TV and consume appropriate beverages and comestibles.
The latter included scones, pronounced by Juliet as in wrongs, when we all know the correct pronunciation is scones as in stones. Letters will be written.
After that unforgiveable faux pas, it was a minute or so before Mr Chamberlain came into view, and the wait was filled either by bird song or someone who had a squeaky chair.
“The eyes of the sporting world will be on Ascot” said Chamberlain, with the caveat that Premier League football makes its return on Wednesday. But, never mind, Ascot has the stage to itself for one day at least.
He admitted to heightened nerves and excitement but relieved in one sense that this year there’s no royal procession. It is, he said, a very tough 16 minutes of broadcasting and one where he dreads seeing text messages on his phone from his parents, because it means he’s made a blunder.
No sooner than referring to an occupant of one of the carriages as a lieutenant, his father texted “You idiot, he’s lieutenant general, the head of the army.” And his mother pointed out that a titled lady he’d mentioned had died six years earlier.
Richard Hoiles, who seemed to fidget a lot, described the week as “long days, and madness for a minute or a minute-and-a-half”, adding “The two-year-old races will be difficult as we haven’t had a chance to see them (the horses)”.
There was the risk that the preview was going to be a bit of a love-in as Chamberlain and Hoiles heaped praise on the work that had been undertaken by the racecourse to get the show on the road, albeit with players but not an audience.
However, the praise was merited, as the track’s director of racing Nick Smith told how, until May, there were only four members of the ground staff on duty, sometimes working until two or three in the morning. Hopefully, they were spared zoom meetings.
Smith said that day-one going would be good, good-to-firm in places. He also passed on that Kimari was “seriously fancied” by its connections in Friday’s Commonwealth Cup.
Hoiles was impressed with how the five-day programme had been structured, recognising how it was taking place between the 2000 Guineas and the Derby, with follow-up races becoming trials and vice-versa.
Stretching the zoom technology to the limits was an inserted video with champion jockey and the sport’s new champion PR exponent, Oisin Murphy, who’d been booked for the meeting whilst being driven home from the races.
For him, his standout rides are all on Thursday, when he’s looking forward to being on board three in particular: Tritonic in the Golden Gates Handicap (12/1 with Paddy Power), Bright Devil in the Chesham (9/2) and 7/1 shot Enemy in the Britannia Stakes.
Brough Scott, the zoom camera cruelly making him look a bit like a Spitting Image puppet, was happy to put up 33/1 (Paddy Power) shot Kurious against Battaash in Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes, and would take a punt in the Britannia with Dance Fever at 14/1.
Talking of Battassh, Chamberlain has concerns, citing his quirkiness, particularly as he’ll only be allowed two stall handlers, and that Ascot’s five-furlongs is probably too far for him
George Baker is lining up the Queen’s First Receiver (a runner, not a Windsor Castle flunky) in the Hampton Court Stakes, describing him as a proper Stoute slow-burner. “If he wins, he’ll be a proper Royal fancy in the Derby”.
More races and more horses zoomed in and out of the conversation as the allotted time of 60 minutes ticked away.
The technology pretty much held up, the bird song (or squeaky chair) could be heard from time to time, and it was soon time to finish proceedings and, for the Secret Racegoer, to head off for tea, maybe with scones, as in stones.
More for Royal Ascot
♦ Whistlejacket’s day 1 Betting Plan http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4b8
♦ Day 1 key stats http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4aD
♦ Doug Campbell’s Royal Ascot Best Bets – day 1 http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4aN
♦ Your Royal Ascot 2020 scene-setter – the six days and 36 races http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-49i
♦ Royal Ascot 2020 – not so normal Royal meetings http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-48u
♦ Royal Ascot 2020 on ITV http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-48B
♦ Ascot: over 300 years of racing history http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-29A