Despite some brilliant winners at this year’s Royal Ascot, and there were plenty, perhaps the most outstanding performance during a superb week came from one of the beaten horses.
The Queen’s Estimate, last year’s Gold Cup heroine who was making her seasonal debut, went so close to recording back-to-back victories in the blue riband under Ryan Moore, only to find Leading Light and Joseph O’Brien too strong in a pulsating finish.
Sir Michael Stoute must take the plaudits for an outstanding piece of training, having been denied an opportunity to run the five-year-old prior to her Ascot date.
Unfortunately for supporters of the royal mare, she couldn’t quite get past the Coolmore-owned runner, bagging another big-race success for the Ballydoyle boys following on from Australia’s scintillating Derby display. I guess we can believe the hype now about Ouija Board’s son.
The prospect of a match between Australia and Kingman, who confirmed his status as the outstanding miler of the season with a stunning triumph in the St James’s Palace Stakes over old foe Night Of Thunder, would really be one to savour.
Of course, the two heavyweights may well be kept apart by their respective camps, but a meeting over ten furlongs would undoubtedly be the race of the season and give Channel 4 something to get their teeth into on the marketing front.
Royal Ascot revealed some better news for Channel 4 as viewing figures, at least for some days, improved on last year. The broadcaster had been under pressure after a disappointing Epsom meeting added to previous losses since coverage switched from the BBC.
Whether or not Channel 4 really is “for misfits”, as Tony Morris delicately puts it in his column this month is open to debate, but it seems the station is struggling to get enough people through the door, so to speak.
Many column inches in the racing press, mostly negative in tone, have been lavished on critiquing the programme, its production and presenters, but it seems to me that the real problem lies with the location of the shop, not the product it sells.
Anyhow, Frankie Dettori was drafted in, along with Gok Wan, to add extra sparkle to the coverage. Dettori certainly did his part, but most of it, predictably, came on the back of a horse.
French wonder filly Treve may have run poorly but Dettori and his boss, Sheikh Joaan Al Thani, who also saw his Toronado win the Queen Anne Stakes under Richard Hughes, still had plenty to smile about after dominating the two-year-old colt contests with The Wow Signal and Baitha Alga.
In this month’s ‘Talking To’, Dettori tells Tim Richards about his association with Al Shaqab Racing following his split from Godolphin, having spent the best part of two decades riding for Sheikh Mohammed’s organisation.
“It was very painful – like a divorce, never a pretty or nice situation,” says the jockey, who has been so integral to British racing for the past 25 years. “It took me a while to get over the fact that I wasn’t riding for Godolphin any more. I make no secret of that and now I have moved on and got a new life.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to find myself in such a good job so quickly following the end of my days at Godolphin. I was approached by Sheikh Joaan to ride for him after Royal Ascot last year. I thought potentially this could be a big step in the right direction.
“I consider myself still a young man and I envisage the riding as a stepping-stone to further jobs in Sheikh Joaan’s set-up. I would like to carry on in some other capacity helping the firm to continued success.”
You get the feeling there are plenty more winners left in Frankie’s locker before he jumps off a horse for good.