The Five-day Racing Blog: Keeping an eye on Royal Ascot

This time last year Black Caviar was the talk of the racing world. How quickly life moves on! At least she will be remembered, unlike some of the reprobates at the local Trans-Australian who have more interest in the next to jump at Maitland than they do in immortality.

Royal Ascot is always worth a look in the middle of a cold Australian night over a sherry and a bowl of Smith’s Thins and I must say, I do like how the Poms have worked out how to stage a racing carnival. Get the big racing out the way early – schedule the features as the first races on the first day – so we can all spend time plucking pheasant filos from passing wicker- baskets, pretending to be Anthony Blanche (“My suffering”), and swimming in champagne.

Let us know where you are watching this year and what you are backing.

D. Downer, are you in some ten-quid shoe-box in Brixton, about to jump the 8.09 to Ascot?

G. Whateley, are you pining for past love?

Punters around the globe, give us a tip, if you like something – long-winded explanations welcome (expected). Or tell us whether you’ve been to Royal Ascot, what you saw, what happened, and how you did your shirt. (If you haven’t been, stories of Bundamba are fine)

Also very keen to affirm the English as English by hearing exaggerated and embellished stories of their Englishness. (eg I was looking out the tube window on a mizzlingly London afternoon when I saw a bloke in a mackintosh fishing for glow-in-the-dark kippers in an oily channel near Acton. He looked to me like his name was Arold. That’s when I realised I’d underestimated England as a sporting nation).

John McCririck does this to me.


  1. David Downer says

    Well, personally, the dizzying heights of my Royal Ascot sojourn last year will be hard to top.

    It was all eleven lengths Frankel, Michael Owen sightings, ales with Joe Janiak, So You Think non-slaughtered redemption, refreshed bandstand puzzlement, Pimm’s-fuelled Waterloo trains, and Black Caviar heart palpitations.

    But this year, international blend Fosters at the Choisir bar will be swapped for (not a JTH sherry and Thins), but raisin toast and a hot milo. Enjoyed on a couch in Aspendale 3195, not Ascot SL5. As such, the Royal procession from Windsor Castle up the straight makes way for a German shepherd and Chihuahua trotting slightly less elegantly up the hallway.

    I do have a connection to the main Australian point of interest tonight in the King’s Stand (12:05am). Some workmates of mine own Shamexpress. They are currently nervously adjusting their top and hat tails before raiding the Royal Enclosure. He’ll take a sit near the rear and hopefully the pace is poured on up front and he can blouse them at the finish, a la his Newmarket win. The UK sprinters are a better crop this year, and the South African horse Shea Shea will start the fave. So he’s up against it. If he comes through it ok, either way, he may run again on Saturday in the Jubilee. This race is a real K.Callender affair too, the six horses with saddlecloth numbers 10-15 have names starting with “Ssss”.

    There is plenty of Ascot coverage and previews available on your “paid subscription services”. Alas, old mate John McCririck will not be sighted this year. Moved on from Channel 4 last year, Bic Mac is currently suing the network for “ageism”. I’d suggest a counter-claim of “rampant sexist dickhead-ism” would be more successful if it came to pass. But that’s for the courts to decide.

    The other, ahem, “Australian” horse running tonight is Animal Kingdom. The Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner is now majority owned by Australian breeding interests. If he can salute in the Queen Anne tonight (11:30pm) he’d become the first horse in history to win group one’s on three different surfaces. Starts odds on in this. He’s much better than these on record and ability, but will he cope with the Ascot undulations up the straight mile? Seems to be some chatter about for the filly Elusive Kate as the main danger. Aljamaaheer owes me some coin from Ascot last year too, just quietly. Knows how to find trouble.

    Dawn Approach seeks Derby redemption in the St James’s Palace Stakes (12:45am). I backed him to success on track on this day last year in the 2yo event. He didn’t settle at all in the Derby a fortnight ago, if he can find his feet tonight and return to his sparkling Guineas form, he wins.

    Socceroos into Royal Ascot. Sweet action.

    Will potter round here during the night…

    May your bottom be swinley,


  2. Great stuff DD. The coverage is wonderful but the hours too tough for me – want to be fresh for Sandown tomorrow!
    Did you see the link I put up about Henry Cecil? – quite the lad, he were.

  3. David Downer says

    What a bloody relief! Excruciating palaver, that.

    Outstanding late call from “Aussie Holger”.

    Jesus delivers.

  4. David Downer says

    A rather “libertine” read there re H.Cecil, Crio! I’ve come on board UK racing only recently so only knew him as “Frankel’s trainer”, wasn’t aware of such colourful tid-bits. He did of course also train 75 Royal Ascot winners along the way.

    I’ve been mistaken re McCririck. He’s found his way to the At The Races coverage, now showing on both Sky World/TVN. Big Mac is back!

  5. David Downer says

    Writing was on the wall for Animal Kingdom when trotting to the barriers looking more uncomfortable than the mare last year. Gone a long way out. The O’Brien trained Declaration of War wins it from Aljamaaher.

    Shamexpress had every chance in the King’s Stand. Loomed up as though he’d be right in it, might have been on the wrong side of the track though? Faded on his run late and finished about 8th. In pre-race betting he blew out to $20 on Betfair while still $4.50 on the TAB back here. The winner was the consistent sprinter Sole Power, just nailing Shae Shae on the line.

    The St James’s Palace an incredible race. A real rough-housing affair. Dawn Approach involved in some bullocking on the outside, then a few strides later is charging up the inside rail, a head to head battle with Toronado. Got the bob in, survived the inquiry. Drama drama drama. Gutsy win.

    3-0 to Ireland early.

    I must also note, watching these Betfair pools tick over so rapidly on these big UK races is quite astounding.

    The Queen’s hat was pink.

    Signing off, Zzzz Zzzz Zzzz
    The lone blogger!

  6. DD, any great signs of English-ness?

    I saw McCririck whose bugger-grips look like the pubis region of some of the octogenarian golfers who used to stumble about the locker room at Indooroopilly GC. There was a magnificent tradition at IGC of having your first round in the locker room – often in the nud, or with towel. Thirsty work, golf in the tropics. Some amazing time-honoured thirst-quenchers from the oldies as well. I recall ginger beer and milk was popular.

    I do like the Poms approach to form. They talk about who beat who when and hence the order in which they should finish now. Good memories, the Pommy analysts. Unbelievable trust as well. We tend to consider so many parameters. Sometimes that works in your favour. I love when they keep sending one out at odds even though it keeps winning. Campaign King was one.

  7. Plucking and consuming pheasant filos at Ascot sounds pleasant, but beware……discussions of pheasant plucking-related matters can be fraught spoonerism-wise.

  8. This picture of the Queen watching one of her horses win is going to take some topping…

  9. What self-respecting sporting website ignores the most significant contest involving Australia this year (World Cup qualification decider) and runs a thread on happening at a goat track in Pommy land???###***
    I mean where are the sportsmen – demented dwarves or fat men in suits (trainers or bookies take your pick) whose main endeavour is sourcing more performance enhancing drugs than James Hird could ever dream of.
    And don’t give me the crap about ‘equine athletes’. Are we going to have threads on bear wrestling and cock fighting???
    The achievement of the Socceroos last 3 games against Japan away, Jordan and Iraq was extraordinary execution under immense pressure.
    I listened to Ned Hall and Paul Wade’s great call on ABC radio, because I don’t have Foxtel and I couldn’t wait for the SBS delayed telecast. It was riveting stuff, that took me back to being a kid in country SA in the 60’s when we couldn’t get TV. A close cricket Test or footy match was all the better on radio because of the unknown element that left so much to the imagination. I was pacing the floor by half way through the second half yelling updates to the (supremely disinterested) Avenging Eagle.
    Horse racing and F1 are not sports!!! They are entertainments.

  10. David Downer says

    McCririck is all the Englishness one needs, JTH. How can you trump that!

    Good get there Litza. Beatrice obviously backed something else.

    My profile pic at right was actually taken on this day last year. What you can’t see below the headshot are the wads of quid flapping about after cheering So You Think on to victory in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. Took perhaps the shortest black quote available on a traditional fractional bookies board …21/20!

    In this year’s “renewal” our old mate Red Cadeaux is a fluker’s chance against the almost Triple Crown winner Camelot, and the classy Al Kazeem who looked after him last start. Race start is 12:45 ..may (will) struggle to back up tonight.

    There’s also some charge of the light brigade stuff tonight with 30 horses in the Royal Hunt Cup (1:25am). Good luck there punters. Actually if you’re restricted to the TAB, you won’t have a chance. The systems are still restricted to, and why the Melbourne Cup has, a max of 24 starters #theyearis2013

    In the Duke of Cambridge stakes at 12:05am, the footy omen bet quinella might be 4.DANK into 3.DANCEWITHTHEDEVIL. Gigs can work some sort of anagram around that I’m sure.

    Peter_B. Please!


  11. Malcolm McDonald and 5AN for you PeterB.
    Thanks for the updates DD.

  12. Sports thrive despite gambling. Gambling is the only rationale for horse racing.
    Put on a meeting with the best horses and jockeys + no betting and there would be nobody watching – on or off course.
    Put on a tennis, golf, cricket, footy, soccer match with no betting on the outcome – would not matter a jot to the crowds and interest. Just the sound of fans cheering at not having their space intruded by gambling ads.
    Horse racing is a pastime. Like chess and cribbage. Enjoy it by all means. But don’t confuse it with SPORT.

  13. David Downer says


    In the original article and the comments that follow, the word “sport” is used on 7 occasions,

    JTH notched up 1 in reference to “a bloke in a mackintosh fishing for glow-in-the-dark kippers in an oily channel near Acton.”

    You then account for the other 6.

    Stop arguing with yourself.


  14. DD

    Having tried to steer a rocking horse and a Malvern Star bicycle and also having shaken the hand of H. McKechnie after she rode You’re Joking to victory over the Cox PLate* distance at Moonee Valley I am convinced it requires strength, courage, analysis, coordination and timing to be a jockey. And also, you have to get changed to participate if you want to use one of the definitions of sport from the grey-haired wits at the North Fitzroy Arms (the other is that if it squeaks it is not a sport, a definition concocted late one night to eliminate basketball and all tennis except for lawn.)


  15. Observing Englishness: at Wembley in 1993 (Charity Shield), 24 degrees, the lager louts with their shirts off walking from the Metropolitan line tube up the ramp to the beautiful old stadium like they’re about to sack Berlin. Father-rapers with tatts the subjects of which made Beelzebub look like Kevin Rudd. I was amused that the imagined archetype was real. Quickly detecting I was in an irony-free zone I tried to keep the smirk from my face. When I got to the gate the bobby looked at the twelve hit-men and then looked at me – and frisked me. I got the giggles. Later that afternoon I happened to be sitting right next to a few from the band of unlovable men who were still on the edge of biting bits of concrete from the pylons. Then the PA blared ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’ and I noticed that George (let’s call him George) was singing along and had a tear rolling down his cheek. He struck me as one of those blokes easily recruited for a European skirmish who holidayed in Portugal and Turkey or anywhere else they served the ‘traditional English breakfast’ and advertised their hotels with ‘English Big Brother on the big screen’. Very English.

  16. Youve missed your calling DD- take up writing as you have bought out many comments from the readers especially Harmsy . Have enjoyed the blog
    Will you get serious about racing after winter ? Miss your tips on Crios racing

  17. David Downer says

    Very sound “english-ness”, JTH. You must continue.

    I might also point out for Peter_B that there are sports, and pastimes, and horseracing. It’s so good it has its own category.

    Cheers Oges. Have been quiet on the betting front but am whiling away the Winter months looking at sectional times, so will be upping the ante come the Spring with some new found knowledge from a different perspective (I hope – it may of course just confuse me further).

    Ascot Gold Cup day today, ladies day. I gave this day a miss last year, should have at least scalped off my pre-purchased 70 quid entry ticket at Waterloo! In lieu of, I did have my first experience in a Ladbrokes that day. “Experience” being the operative word. The old Sportsbet ads featuring leprechauns and all manner of dubious characters could not match the scenes beholden in a dodgy Ladbrokes.

    Luckily for me I did back the winner of the Gold Cup, so had a second visit back to said betting shop for the collect – I actually thought the bloke behind the counter was not going to honour the bet! I struggled to assess the unexpectedly dry Pakistani humour (and accent).

    The Gold Cup is a 4000m race, the winning horse in question was Colour Vision. He goes around again today. I’ve done little form for this, so he’ll do me again for an interest (14-1, it’s 7s the field). The Queen’s horse Estimate is one of the favourites. Also have a soft spot for Simenon (7-1), he won twice at the meeting last year, including the 22 furlong get-out on final day to lift spirits after the Black Caviar “saga”.

    Will be sat here ‘aving a butcher’s hook from about half ten, yeah? #englishness

  18. Good to see you have come on board DD and agree horse racing is not a sport. I think the category you are searching for is ‘legalised theft’.

  19. Just can’t quite imagine a preview on 927 for Thursday meeting at Bairnsdale including the words, “A monarch’s horse hasn’t won the Gold Cup since 1842.” Thankfully.

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