Horses / Horse News
Racing fans around the world will be rejoicing that Royal Ascot 2020 is actually happening – defying the worst efforts of the cursed, antisocial coronavirus.
The five-day UK race meeting that starts on Tuesday 16 June and runs through to Saturday is the most glamorous and prestigious fixture in all horse racing. It has just about the highest-quality racing on the planet, too.
Of course, this year there will be no Queen Elizabeth II in attendance; and very few of her subjects, either.
It is strictly “closed-doors” – no gilded carriages, no fashion extravaganza, no champagne picnics. Just horses galloping, a few jockeys, trainers, stable lads and a smattering of officials making sure all is tickety-boo.
It might be strangely quiet on the Berkshire downs, but there’ll be plenty of noise in lounge rooms around the world as racing fans in more than 120 countries tune in to the action.
In South Africa, DStv has allocated a whole channel (210) to non-stop coverage throughout each day.
Royal Ascot is one of Britain’s most high-profile social events of the year. AFP/File/CARL COURT
The traditional 30 races have been shuffled through the week a bit to accommodate a disrupted overall season, and six extra races have transferred from cancelled meetings.
Instead of the horses pulling the queen’s carriage being the first nags past the post on opening day, it will be cavalry charge of 23 runners in the 1400m Buckingham Palace Handicap at 2.15pm SA time.
Frankie Dettori is riding the ante-post favourite Daarik for top trainer John Gosden and the indomitable jockey could get his week off to a flying start.
It’s uncertain if he’ll be doing his celebratory flying dismount – with no crowd to wow – but a very promising book of rides through the week suggests the Italo-Brit will be in the winner’s circle at some point. Indeed, many pundits are suggesting he will emerge as top rider of the week – emulating his feat of last and some previous years. His keen rivalry with Ryan Moore will be one of the intriguing storylines to follow.
Dettori is the focus of attention on Thursday, when the famous old Gold Cup is contested. He is aboard hugely popular Stradivarius, going for their third successive victory in the blue riband event.
Back to Day 1, the two Group 1 headliners are the Queen Anne Stakes – named after the 1711 founder of Ascot racecourse – and the King’s Stand Stakes – the world’s premier five-furlong dash.
Dettori pilots 7-2 favourite Terebellum in the Queen Anne, facing a 4-1 all-Irish threat of Circus Maximus, Moore and master trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Speed merchant Battaash is considered one of the best bets of the week in the King’s Stand, but is unlikely to make anyone rich at cramped odds. Trained by Charlie Hills for Sheik Hamdan, with Jim Crowley in the plate, the six-year-old sticks out as an exotic-bets banker.
It won’t be quite the same without tens of thousands of tiddly, outlandishly-dressed, happy folk cheering on the gallopers, but it is still a racing week to cherish.
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