where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2024-06-22 14:42:33  
Rose At Ascot: A South African Angle to the great week

Is there any other race meeting in the world that can evoke the same thrill as Royal Ascot? It truly is like nowhere else. Yes, Dubai has the flashy, money-laden World Cup, and Australia has the nationally celebrated Melbourne Cup, complete with a public holiday. But nowhere combines style, class, and premier league racing like Royal Ascot. It is absolutely incomparable, and if you haven’t experienced it, you must do so at least once in your lifetime, writes Rose Hall, SAHorseracing.COM's guest media representative at Royal Ascot for the week. 

There are always several South African regulars, such as the Ridgemount group, Amanda and Craig Carey, who I bumped into in Windsor while walking my dog early on Sunday, and I believe Jonathan Snaith was around, although I didn’t actually see him. Not many trainers come over, as they often focus on the Durban July, but it’s nice to see some breeders. I believe David Hepburn Brown was here yesterday with his daughter Sarah. She always looks glamorous, as she does at The Met and Kings Plate. Speaking of which, I just ran into Derek Thompson after his Betfred broadcast for South Africa, and he is very keen to come over for the Kings Plate. He would be an excellent promoter for SA racing, so it would be great to get him there.

I have also seen a few Brits with racing interests in South Africa, like Dr. Jill Warner and Professor John Warner. They have longstanding connections, having bought the top-class filly Carry On Alice in 2013, and they are joint owners of Royal Aussie. John told me a great story about the first and only time he remembers the temperature reaching over 30 degrees at Royal Ascot. Gentlemen were allowed to remove their jackets, but as John lifted his top hat to cool down upon entering the Royal Enclosure, a steward promptly told him to put it back on, insisting, “Well Sir, that’s as it may be, but you WILL be wearing your hat.” A great picnic story, John. The stewards here are strict and unyielding.

I met the ladies who police the dress code this morning. I love wandering around and discovering these unique aspects of Ascot. These designer-dressed ladies roam the entrance points, checking the outfits of both men and women. If you’re not following the rules, like having bare shoulders, midriffs, etc., they escort you to their marquee by the entrance where you can buy a pashmina, jacket, top hat, or fancy hat to cover up. One lady was escorted in for not wearing a matching jacket and trousers and came out in a nice matching set!

I’m meeting Philip and Jayne Bamford in their box today. Philip has been involved in South African racing with various trainers, mostly Mike and Candice Bass and Glen Kotzen, for a couple of decades and loves his racing. He’s been a great promoter of SA racing and has encouraged new owners. With the export protocol easier now, we need to get back to promoting our horses. The top-class ones can compete on the world stage and will always be warmly welcomed here at Ascot. They actively promote international participants and could not be more helpful and welcoming. We did it years ago with Diamond Quest, and it was an incredible experience. Having a runner on Ladies Day, in probably the highlight race of the week, was an experience like no other. Owners, trainers, and horses get 5-star treatment, and the excitement of being in the Parade Ring with the late Queen and Sheikh Mohammed was incredible. If you have a good horse, they can compete. They might not win—we were running against Yeats going for his 3rd consecutive Gold Cup—but really, it’s a win just to be here as an owner.

I’ve been looked after wonderfully this week. I’ve had picnics with the Warners, been in the Royal Enclosure with my daughter and her friends, and had a great time joining a friend in the Royal Ascot Racing Club room on Friday. This is absolutely the best place to race from. The company, the location of the club rooms, and the food are all exceptional. Being a limited members-only club, it’s very exclusive. They have a stunning room next to the Royal Box and right on the finishing post, so there is no better place to be. They do have memberships available, so if anyone fancies buddying up with me to split a joint membership, I’m very keen to join now having had such a great day yesterday. They also own some horses in training, picked by Harry Herbert, and organize stable and sales visits, all included in the annual fee. Kenilworth should consider something similar.

I always wonder every year if Ascot can deliver another wonderful five days, but it does, year after year. The weather played its part this year with fantastic warm but not stifling dry days. Men didn’t swelter in top hats and morning suits, and women could wear skimpy, floaty dresses and be comfortable. The racing is always the best in the world, and owners and trainers worldwide want runners this week. French and Aussie accents have been heard everywhere. The ground is nearly perfect this year, with a beautiful cover of grass. Is there any better judge of ground than Chris Stickels, clerk of the course? He must have a direct line to the Almighty, as I have never known him to misjudge the weather.

Looking forward to another good day today. No doubt the Maestro, Aidan O’Brien, has a strong chance with Bedtime Story in the Chesham. He is good at mopping up this race and has had a great week so far, always in form. I also like River Tiber in the Jersey Stakes, but the Qatari camp, Wathnan Racing, must be hopeful their newly purchased Haatem might get them a few bucks back from the massive amount they likely paid in the pre-Royal meeting spending spree. Richard Hannon knows his onions and is spreading confidence in his new charge. He will probably start as the favorite. I am marginally up for the week, so I might go for a double with these two to put me ahead. It will be a great Royal Ascot for me as always, regardless of the state of my funds and feet!

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