HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, June 20, 2021 – It’s Father’s Day and as much as I wish it were so, I’m not going to get what I really wanted: Just one more day of racing from Royal Ascot.
HRI Faithful contributor Tony P said it all the other day, underscoring what I had noticed but thought perhaps it was just me: That 9:30 am EST every horse one sees is beautiful.
Instead of the usual simulcast array to which American horseplayers have become accustomed, every horse I saw was athletic, regal in bearing and stunningly attractive. There didn’t appear to be a single selling plater among them.
I have nothing against claiming horses, America’s Thoroughbred working class. Not all horses can be equine royalty neither must they be. What they provide is a way of life their caretakers love. And that, as they say, is priceless.
As many of the HRI Faithful have written here and on Racing Twitter, they too were fascinated by what they saw; top class horseflesh giving top class performances. No detailed data needed, just down-and-dirty running lines, pedigrees, course condition and an odds board. Every picture told a story.
Betting some races was a welcome change of pace. Damn the figures, “training programs” and legal medication that presumably were administered with sufficient lead time.
We’re sure that the same legal pharmacological advances exist in European racing capitals and in the Far East but are regulated more closely and resolved with greater transparency.
The magic of video allowed fans to see two huge groups of horses battling each other from the complete other side of the course, sometimes meeting in the middle, sometimes not.
The undulations require riders to move at the exact right moment and not a tad too soon, as those punishing final years determine victory or defeat. Stamina always mattered, even under the speed-friendliest conditions.
John Gosden and son Thady were the first training duo to take leading trainer honors at Royal Ascot. They sent out four winners, same as trainer Andrew Balding, but earned the title because of Reach For The Moon’s placing in the listed Chesham Stakes.
Champion jockey Oisin Murphy won his first leading jockey title with five victories, one more than Ryan Moore. Frankie Dettori and William Buick finished tied for third with three victories. Godolphin led all owners with three winners, highlighted by Kemari’s G2 Queen’s Vase.
I will watch more European racing and learn how to return to basics; a place where bloodlines matter in solving the handicapping puzzle of nature vs. nurture. The feeling is nature has more of a say than those whose job it is to simply tighten a girth and call a veterinarian when problems need a fix.
The same world after all; stewards and tracks giveth, taketh away
Actually, in the case of two disparate events, it was more like two takeaways by the stewards but one was justified and doled out justice as opposed to the other politically, and economically, expedient.
First came the rightful disqualification of Dragon Slayer and promotion of Campanelle in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup sprint for three year olds, but was an process that took so long that no one, horseman or punter, knew what to expect.
It should not have taken as long as it did. Dragon Symbol, beneath the brilliant, youthful Murphy, was allowed to drift out 8-to-10 paths under left-handed encouragement, taking Campanelle with her.
Murphy tried to correct his mount but waited too long in doing so as the damage had been done: Repeated left-hand urging is not countered sufficiently by two shown crops righthanded in the final two jumps in an attempt to justify his actions.
Wesley Ward, the win ultimately giving him an worthy dozen Royal Ascot victories, was respectful but he did show a little impatience when he commented to Sky Sports:
“[In America], we would have gotten the trophy and been upstairs drinking champagne by now … but we respect [that the stewards want to be certain] and we will respect whatever decision is made.”
The bottom line the stewards got this one right. What they got wrong, however, was not declaring a horse a non-starter in the day’s final event which would have entitled bettors around the world to receive a just refund.
Stunning Beauty required a blindfold to enter the Kensington Stakes starting gate. Jockey Silvestre DeSousa was in the process of removing the headgear when the latch was sprung. DeSousa pulled up his disoriented mount immediately, taking the horse out of the race in a matter of strides.
Horseplayers were forced to wait for more than a half-hour before winnings would be paid, the stewards taking an inordinate amount of time deliberating on whether the horse be declared a non-starter.
The stewards effectively decided there would be no refunds because Stunning Beauty was ruled a starter. But that didn’t mean that Royal Ascot had to compound the reasonably apparent mistakes by not issuing a refund in the interest of fairness and appreciation of bettors worldwide.
De Sousa felt the over-eagerness of the official starter to begin the race was the issue. Said the rider: “The hood didn’t come off so I couldn’t race. [The starter] could have waited two more seconds for me to get it off, but he wouldn’t wait and opened the stalls before I could take the hood off.
“I was shouting, there was a lot of talking going on in there, and they could have waited for me. They just didn’t wait,” turning the matter into a he-said/he-said issue. When questioned, the starter said he did not hear calls to wait from the jockeys.
Thanks to the burgeoning popularity of international racing in America and around the globe, Royal Ascot worldwide handle reached the $150 million plateau, not the greatest amount but not insignificant, either.
This was an opportunity for Royal Ascot to show the class that their race meet is famous for and failed to do so. Perhaps next time they will get it right and make fairness for the bettors their highest post-race priority.