Saturday just gone was a really superb day, one of those that just pops up and makes you really appreciate things. I bought a ticket for Champions day at Ascot as soon as Frankel was confirmed as targeting the Champion Stakes although only in the grandstand as I missed the “best” ones. Charlie, my son, was always coming too but there is no need to buy tickets for under 16’s for any race meeting I know of (this is a bargain, make the most of it!).
I have long had the target of going to all the racecourses on the UK mainland and am currently on 15 of the 59/60 (it keeps changing). But now that Charlie is old enough I have another list which is courses Charlie and I have been to together, so far: Cheltenham, Goodwood, Sandown, Leicester and now Ascot. I see myself as 60% jumps and 40% flat when it comes to racing and I can safely say this is the most enjoyable days flat racing I have ever had.
|Charlie and the other type of horsepower|
We left early and from North London (N10) it took us 1hr 45 mins, half of which was queuing for some stupid lights by some badly planned roadworks. The return journey was a dream, 50 mins. The reason the day was so good is that whoever re-designed Ascot actually seems to realise people want to move around. Between every race we managed to get to the paddock, grab a drink or food, have a bet and watch the race all with out running anywhere. That fact we both finished up on the day was a nice thing too, however marginally it was in my case! Clearly Frankel was the main course but there were four great races beforehand and a very sensible apprentices race after. The only improvement they could make is to have a “Champion” 2yr old race but then this would be trampling on the toes of what is quite a natural end to the 2yr old season elsewhere.
We were both on Fame & Glory, who looked an absolute picture, in the first. He ran well and looked the winner turning for home but may be the ground found him out. Either way a brilliant training performance by Dermot Weld meant that Rite of Passage returned from a 500+ day lay off to win under Pat Smullen. When it comes to big international race days it never pays to ignore Weld, fortunately we took this on board for later.
The sprint was up next, and admittedly they are not a vintage bunch of sprinters at the moment, but I have always loved these races. Charlie went for Slade Power and I was on Restiadargent, but sadly we were both on the wrong side of the track and probably not quite good enough and Maarek went on to win nicely.
The third race though saw a change of luck. We were both on Sapphire, hoping that her improvement through the season would continue and also give Weld a double, to be honest she won a shade cosily, under a good ride from Smullen and now Charlie was very happy, a winner does that!
It was now Group 1 time with the QE2 to be followed by the Champion. Charlie has another winner with Excelebration who I would say posted probably the most impressive performance of the day and also the ultimate compliment to Frankel by waiting for a gap and then taking it very decisively. “If” is on of the biggest words in sport but when it comes to Excelebration you can say with some sympathy that if it weren’t for Frankel he would be lauded as some horse. It will be very interesting to see who does better at stud. The Group 1’s starting was also an indicator that it was time to have a cigar and out came the last Partagas Short from a box I have really enjoyed over the last 12-18 months. Such a good smoke, tasty, unpretentious and balanced.
So now it was time for the main show…Frankel…I have never seen a parade ring so packed or been so nervous about a horse I have not backed…that he got the job does was brilliant. I wish he was staying in training but I can understand why not and at least we have had 3 years of him not just two as would have almost certainly been the case 10 years ago. We will forever be able to say we were there…Well done to Ascot for a cracking day!