The next five days at Royal Ascot will be a social and sporting summer spectacular, and the best renewal of the Gold Cup in years should ignite the Flat season.
With 30 races live on our main channel, it is a monster to present on ITV. There was much debate about our Derby coverage, but I remain determined to continue broadening racing’s audience and to bring the thrill of the world’s best racing, high-end fashion, colour and party atmosphere to people’s living rooms – like the 3.25 million British homes we were in last year. From the seriousness of voicing the royal procession, to presenting the world’s best Flat racing, to the craziness of singing on the bandstand to end the show, it is my favourite working week of the year.
That is all very well, but most important of all is trying to find a winner. It is a Group One bonanza on Tuesday: I hope the Battmobile is in full working order and Battaash blitzes the King’s Stand. But the best bet is Mustashry in the Queen Anne. I tipped him on ITV for the Lockinge and am surprised he is not being given more credit for winning that very easily. I think this will be No 80 for Sir Michael Stoute at the royal meeting.
Day two starts with one of the best editions of the Queen Mary that I can remember. After all last week’s rain, if there is any cut left in the ground on Wednesday, Final Song is the one to be on. The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes is the richest race of the week, and the best quality, but also looks the hardest Group One puzzle to solve. Magical is the solid choice.
The Gold Cup is the race of the week, with multiple up-and-comers taking a shot at an established champ. Along with Enable, Stradivarius is the Flat horse who captures the public’s imagination. He was my bet of the week last year but I have opposed him numerous times since, to my cost. Jason Weaver says he has the “perfect mind” for a racehorse and soft ground would be my only fear.
My bet of the day, possibly the week, runs in the last on Thursday: Mark Johnston has a brilliant record in this contest and Sir Ron Priestley looks tailor-made to give Mark his seventh King George V.
My one wish for this week is that the love on the track is shared around. At Epsom, we celebrated the sporting excellence of Aidan O’Brien, and Godolphin have aimed all their big guns at Royal Ascot: the superpower clash will be fascinating. However, it would be good for the sport to see smaller owners and trainers, plus the odd syndicate, have their day in the sun. The Davids have their work cut out against the Goliaths on Friday though, especially in the Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes. Guineas heroine Hermosa is the good thing in the Coronation.
The Diamond Jubilee is the jewel of the final day and again has a real international feel, which is what Royal Ascot is all about. This year it could be France’s turn with City Light, who went so close in this race last year. Ascot form is all important and I am sure he has been targeted all year at going one better. I have backed Hey Jonesy ante-post in the Wokingham at 33/1. However, if I am relying on him by 5pm on Saturday I know it will have been a very long week.