HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, June 25, 2023 – It’s been a dizzying week, especially because we’re not accustomed to being ready for the simulcast shuffle at 9:30 am. Royal Ascot was here but in a flash it’s gone. Here’s a few hot takes:
I now know what I needed to know when it comes to adjudicating fouls in Great Britain and America. And the process could not be more disparate.
There were two incidences that would have resulted in disqualifications on this side of the pond, whereby those same results remained “as is” following lengthy stewards’ reviews.
American horseplayers should know that under the rules, they are getting a fairer shake.
By U.S. rules, horses are demoted if the actions of the transgressor, in the opinion of the stewards, cost a rival a money position.
In Great Britain, the process is more objective on its face. If the horse that finishes first demonstrated it was clearly best on the day, as determined by winning margin and style of victory, that horse would stand.
While this might be the fairest way to deliver justice to the human connections of the horse in, it is, subjectively or not, unfair to horseplayers involved in vertical pools.
In vertical wagers, horses that finish second, third, or fourth are as meaningful as the horse finishing first. On that basis, the British rule is unfair to exotics players and to the connections of the second, third, and fourth finishers.
Suggestions that a viable alternative could be allowing the original order to stand but to fine or suspend the rider whose mount caused interference, instead of punishing the winning owner and trainer.
But what of those owners and trainers who battle for minor awards?
In Tuesday’s G1 King’s Stand, winning Bradsell drifted left, conservatively six paths, inside the final furlong, carrying Highfield Princess out with her.
Whether the action was intentional or not—she was corrected, albeit too late—it was a textbook example of herding which should be against the rules anywhere in the world.
In Saturday’s King’s Stand, winning Pyledriver—the best horse—drifted right, causing Ryan Moore to check his mount with only jumps remaining.
At that juncture, it appeared Moore’s mount, Changingoftheguard, was pushing passed West Wind Blows for the place spot. It would have been a shame had Pyledriver, the “best horse,” been disqualified. But it wasn’t fair for Changingoftheguard’s connections to not be elevated.
By British rule, the Royal Ascot stewards made the correct call and their decision merits respect. But that doesn’t make the decision righteous.
Comparatively, the American rule is more bettor friendly and delivers justice to owners and trainers of the money finishers, too. Of the two, I prefer the American standard.
I have written editorials previously on this issue and I must reverse my original position. I now favor the “foul is a foul” process because takes away most of the speculation, so that results are based on what is obvious to the experienced eye making the call.
PLAYING THE RED BOARD
Given that bench strength and ability matter most, Aidan O’Brien deservedly earned his 12th Ascot title with four winners plus a bevy of money finishes, many of which were partnered by stable rider Ryan Moore, whose six victories earned him a 10th Royal Ascot title.
John and Thady Gosden also had a great meet, as did redoubtable Frankie Dettori who finished his Royal Ascot career as the second leading rider of all-time behind legendary Lester Piggott’s 116 victories.
Dettori’s 82nd winner came on his final ride for Gosden, his ninth Gold Cup, aboard Courage Mon Ami. Said Moore, who is expected to challenge Piggott’s record assuming good health, was generous in praise of his rival:
“I’ll miss him,” said Moore of Dettori. “He’s still here for a bit longer yet. He’s the most beautiful rider you’ve ever seen. If you’re going to build a jockey, that’s how you’d build one.”
“He’s by far the most talented rider I’ve ever put on a horse,” added Gosden, a man is not easily given to superlatives.
The Gold Cup is Dettori’s 34th Group win in Great Britain, many on multiple occasions. Truly a globe trotter, Frankie has won Group or Graded stakes in 24 countries.
Best Performance, Ascot 2023: O’Brien’s Paddington was nothing less than explosive in the final furlong, drawing off while taking the G1 St. James’s Palace Stakes. Even O’Brien is in awe of his charge’s talents:
“We are in a very privileged position and really appreciate it. It’s great to be part of this. He has come out of the race fine, and he looks very different.” If O’Brien believes the three year old colt breathes rarified air, we’re not one to argue.
Crimson Advocate Wins It for America: And for George Weaver, and Johnny Velazquez, and for Gulfstream Park’s inaugural “Win-and-In” Royal Ascot program, one race for each sex. The juvenile miss is now 2-for-2 on grass since adding blinkers.
Sports & Music Fans Bet-A-Bunch Hunch Bet: The field for the Royal Hunt Cup split into two distinct groups, often the case in these 25-horse gang fights, and the top two finishers were separated by the entire width of the entire course.
After the photo was developed, the judges advised that Jimi Hendrix had out-gamed Sonny Liston by a short head. However, “sports” horse names won the day via Shaquille’s game, driving score.
ON AMERICA’S TOP THREE-YEAR-OLD
I know I’m at a loss for an answer after Two Phil’s emphatic victory in the G3 Ohio Derby, taking the 1-1/8 miles by 5-3/4 lengths, winning eased up and galloping through the finish line in a very solid 1:49.60, his final eighth-eighths in a geared down 37.78 seconds.
The Kentucky Derby runnerup demolished Bishops Bay, the horse who pushed Belmont hero Arcangelo to the limit in the G3 Peter Pan. Of course, Forte is still out there, too, among several others.
America’s second-season for racing’s glamour division rates to be exceptionally dramatic. Unfortunately, however, Two Phil’s exited the Ohio Derby with an ankle injury and is scheduled for surgery, ending his 2023 season and placing the balance of his racing career in jeopardy.