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where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2018-06-20 17:29:30  
Rose's Royal Ascot

Well here we are again. In my humble opinion the absolutely best race meeting in the World. A meeting it truly is, meeting of the best thoroughbred horses from around the world, a meeting of friends from around the world and a huge picnic for the rest, writes Rose Hall exclusively for SAHorseracing.com . 

I always get here and think where will the stories come from, how can each year better those of past years. Can I really get excited about a race meeting I have attended or followed almost every year of my life and the answer is without a doubt an unreserved yes! It never fails to astonish and impress.

So far this year the weather has played ball and it looks set to continue. It's dry and warm, the poor guys in morning suits are not sweltering and the ladies in sleeveless dresses are not freezing. So far nobody can really complain about the weather but a few trainers are having to pull horses with the firm ground.

The biggest buzz on Day 1 was the arrival of the Smarkle. She is definitely the latest most popular Royal, on arrival with Prince Harry in the carriage procession the crowd let out a huge cheer when the carriage turned into the parade ring. How do those legs carry any sort of body weight was my initial reaction to seeing the Smarkle in the parade ring? Just as much of a fairytale as the wedding of soap star American to Royal Prince was the Eve Johnson Houghton 33-1 win in the first. Accidental Agent gave the lovely Eve her first winner at Royal Ascot. She has never trained a group 2 winner let alone a Group 1 and to do so at Royal Ascot has to be her career highlight. I love these stories as that's what keeps us all in the game, hope. We all have to hope and dream. I was incredibly lucky in that I also fulfilled part of my dream a few years ago in having a runner at Royal Ascot with Diamond Quest and although he didn't win I can honestly say that was still a dream and one I doubt I will ever better. To even get a horse here and to stand in the parade ring with such illustrious owners as The Queen and Sheik Mohammed is a huge thrill and one that I know a few South Africans have experienced in their racing careers, This year I saw Brian Finch on his way in and he tells me the Ridgemount boys have a runner. Last year I saw Gaynor Rupert in the parade ring and in the past I have also seen Jessica Slack and way back the Jaffees not only had a runner but also went down in the carriages with the Queen. Mike De Kock has ventured this direction with a few and has had reasonable results. We can all only hope that we can get the export protocols sorted so that we can bring over more of out top horses to compete and to be seen on the world stage.

Dreams seem to be the buzz word as not only did Eve have a dream that her horse would be third, the Canadian Breeder, owner John Gunter also said that his win with the Frankel Colt, Without Parole , was " A dream come true". His dream was apparently the same as mine, to have a runner at Royal Ascot, and to start in a Group 1 and unlike mine his buy back Colt for 650,000 Guineas then realised more than his dream by winning the St. James Palace stakes with a first prize of £240067.00! Thus making it probably the best decision of his life. " I'll never top the emotion of this day" said the excited owner/ breeder post race. Considering he also bred Justify this years American Triple crown champion he has a pretty high emotion bar to get over!

Frankie was the winning jockey in the St. James's and earned himself not only a nice little bonus for his win but a 7 day ban and an insignificant £4,300 fine for his hard work rowing to the line. He was the first to admit he probably went to the front too soon and made the Frankel Colt look as though he was struggling towards the end whereas like his Dad's win in the St. James's seven years ago it was probably not a true reflection of his ability. Oddly although Frankie is retained until July by the Quatari Al Shaqab racing he isn't riding any of their runners so guess that won't be renewed. After a treble on day one I doubt he will have any sleepless nights over the non renewal.

My absolute favourite jockey though, William Buick, threw a curved ball to the Americans by stealing The Kings stand stakes. Will, I looked after him as a teenager when his Dad worked so feel I can call him Will, is a master of pace in the school of the late,great Pat Eddery.

The race was meant to be the showdown between Battaash and the American filly Lady Aurelia but Will foiled them all by emerging from the pack to chase down the leader, Battaash and pull clear in the final 50 meters. Winning relatively easily. I so love this boy! After his presentation he spotted me and came over to kiss me on both cheeks before being whisked away for his post race interviews. He really has incredible manners and is the hardest working most determined young man in the weighing room and has been since he was a young boy. My next dream is to bring a horse from South Africa for Will to ride at Royal Ascot, preferably the Gold cup again as that I consider is the race of the meeting, just my luck to come up against the greatest stayer in living memory in Yeats but next time maybe my dream will become a reality.

Sheik Mohammed has also had a dream year of racing with winning the Derby, again William riding , and a great start to Royal Ascot. He says they are now taking it very easy and are relaxing now! If this is relaxing what will happen when they get revved up! Slightly surprising comments from the ultra competitive Sheik but maybe these are new tactics.

It looks like Aiden will also have a good week. Ballydoyle and Godolphin fire up the guns for Royal Ascot and I've just witnessed an Aiden, 1,2,3 in the second race of the second day in The Queens Vase. A Galileo, a Frankel and another Galileo. This is the big money, top stallions, the ones that on pedigree should be in the frame. But the biggest" but " in racing is that Eve Johnson Houghton showed us all that an unsold yearling with a retained price of 8,000 gns can beat the big money thus giving us all that hope and incredible feeling of everyone has a chance.

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