Thursday, 13 June 2013

Royal Ascot, Audrey Hepburn and Me

So what image does Royal Ascot conjure in your mind? Is it the finely dressed ladies and amazing hats, the men in their morning coats or the horses primed for action?

With three Group 1 races in the first hour and a half of the meeting, you’d think that a racing man would be firmly fixed on the racing action – head firmly embedded in the form book. The truth is that I can’t stop thinking of Audrey Hepburn, dressed in black and white along with all the other ladies in the cast of My Fair Lady, singing “What a smashing, positively dashing spectacle: the Ascot op’ning day”.

The scene sums up the atmosphere perfectly: the chatter is of the horses and the excitement of the races, but it is the crowd which is the true spectacle. The event is about socialising rather than the business of betting and, in that sense, it has more in common with Cartmel than almost any other race-meeting in the year. While the racegoers at Ascot might be better dressed, there won’t much difference between the picnics in the car park nor the fun derived from spending time at the races with friends and family.   

Not that the racing action is irrelevant. The key moment in My Fair Lady comes when Eliza Doolittle, caught up in the excitement of the race, lapses into her cockney accent and shouts, “C’mon Dover… move your bloomin’ arse!”. The thrill of cheering on your selection is the same – at Ascot or at Cartmel and it really doesn’t matter whether you are a hardened gambler, a racing novice, a prince or a pauper.

Despite loving the film and being captivated by Audrey Hepburn, there is just one element of the racing scene which grates each time it comes on the television; the horses are galloping in the wrong direction. I know… it sounds ridiculous, but this is the stuff of nightmares for a racecourse manager – I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, sit bolt upright and shout “Stop – the horses are heading the wrong way!”

As for this week’s selections: there is a strong international challenge for the first two races of the royal meeting which could go the way of the USA and South Africa courtesy of Animal Kingdom and Shea Shea. However, the horse  that I’d really like to succeed is Dawn Approach in third race - the St James Palace Stakes. It all went wrong for the Irish-trained horse in the Derby, when he pulled too hard from the start. It would be great to see him bounce back on Tuesday. 

“What a gripping, absolutely ripping moment at the Ascot op’ning day.”

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