It feels like a lifetime ago that we were offering our members the chance to place a wager on whether Royal Ascot would even go ahead. By the time it was announced, it was a bet we were overjoyed to lose. Bookmaking can be masochistic at the best of times. Quarantine had us refreshing Newmarket MP Matt Hancock’s Twitter feed almost hourly, looking out for some positive news.
As much as anything, we wanted racing back because we love the sport. Come Wednesday evening, this was an idea very much under threat. Three more months of lockdown, please. For all of you who had a bet last week, you’ll know how you stand. Up, down or “roughly evens for the week”. This is our story of the week.
The lofty positions held by the racecourses at Ascot, Epsom, Newbury and Newmarket in the racing life of the Queen are regularly well documented. In contrast, the significance of leafy Fontwell Park, the partially figure-of-eight jumps track nestling beside the main Chichester-to-Worthing road in West Sussex, is spoken of less often. But it was here that Her Majesty tasted the first of her 1,011 (and counting) British successes.
The year was 1949, and the horse Monaveen. He was owned in partnership with her mother, Queen Elizabeth, and prepared by Peter Cazalet, subsequently the Queen Mother’s principal trainer, at Fairlawne in Kent. With Princess Elizabeth present to watch, jockey Tony Grantham rode the eight-year-old to victory against two opponents. One of whom was trained by “Towser” Gosden, father of John, in the Chichester Handicap Chase.
You should always expect the unexpected in sport, even when the miracles of 2019 are staring you down.
Gunner B, Le Moss, Ardross, Bosra Sham... Henry Cecil sent out so many stars to deliver equine excellence at Royal Ascot. However, it’s hard to believe there can have been a performance at racing’s most prestigious meeting that gave him more satisfaction than Frankel’s astonishing victory in the 2012 Queen Anne Stakes.