MAJESTIC, international, star-studded. There are many other, and better, adjectives to describe Royal Ascot, a race meeting like no other. This week has provided many highlights, a few controversies, and no end of discussion points. It was a vintage renewal.
The main controversy was the outcome of the Norfolk Stakes, won by The Ridler. Jockey Paul Hanagan was reunited with trainer Richard Fahey on this son of Brazen Beau, and they repeated last year’s win in the race with Perfect Power, himself a Group 1 winner yesterday, though this time with a 50/1 outsider.
Whether he was green, babyish or any other excuse, The Ridler caused plenty of carnage, and must have affected the chances of some of the opposition. The stewards deemed that the interference did not have an effect that caused others to be detrimentally affected, and the winning margin of one and three-parts of a length was enough to allow The Ridler to keep the race.
Paul Hanagan received a 10-day ban, and the normally placid Seamie Heffernan was unhappy on a number of fronts. While most of the headlines focused on his call for a financial deterrent for riders, the underlining issue of importance is the lack of consistency in decisions made, and surely it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Irish and British stewards can agree on protocols and penalties. That would be a start.
Jockeys have a tough job, and no rider is immune from criticism. One moment you are a hero, the next and punters and armchair jockeys are calling for blood. Let them sit on half a tonne of thoroughbred and see what can go wrong. One minute Ryan Moore was weak in the Ascot Stakes, then he is leading the jockeys’ table.
The punters’ darling, Frankie Dettori, gets beaten on Stradivarius and Reach For The Moon, and then he is being cheered home with an outstanding ride on Inspiral. Who would want to be in the saddle? Not for the faint-hearted.
Magic moments were aplenty. Sheikha Hissa leading in Baaeed, Cantillons, Cashmans and more cheering home State Of Rest, Inspiral’s magic comeback, Kyprios given an inspired ride by Ryan Moore, Nature Strip’s imperious victory to confirm his world-class status, and Perfect Power back to his best sprinting.
Today I will relax a little and enjoy the closing day of Royal Ascot 2022. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of Queen Elizabeth. Her absence was felt.