Royal Ascot is often considered to be the best week of flat racing anywhere in the world and it is easy to understand why after 2013’s thriller drew to a conclusion. Horses from around the globe descended on Berkshire for the meeting and there were some memorable performances for racing fans to savour. There was also plenty of emotion in the air following the recent death of the legendary trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, whose memory was honoured in the best way possible.
Ladies Day at Royal Ascot is always the highlight of the week off the track while the Gold Cup is regarded as one of the highlights of the entire flat season. That certainly proved to be the case this year with The Queen finally managing to own the winner of the big race. It was the first time ever that a reigning Monarch had owned the winner of the Ascot Gold Cup and it proved to be the most popular winner of the week. The Queen could hardly hide her delight as her filly, Estimate, battled all the way to the line to claim a famous victory and the images of Her Royal Highness celebrating will surely go down in racing history. Racing is indebted to the passion that the Queen shows to the sport and a Gold Cup win can only help that, with Estimate likely to make a lovely mare in the breeding world in the years to come.
About half-an-hour before the Queen won the gold cup with Estimate, we saw another brilliant win as Lady Cecil trained the winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes. There was hardly a dry eye in the house as the Warren Place team celebrated Riposte winning the Group Two affair, just a week after the legendary Sir Henry Cecil had passed away. Cecil trained no less than 75 Royal Ascot winners during his career and Lady Cecil was lost for words after Riposte had won the Ribblesdale to the delight of everyone watching. It was the perfect tribute to the late Sir Henry, who had made all the Royal Ascot plans for his team and Riposte could be a filly to follow going forward after an impressive performance under Tom Queally.
Perhaps the stand out race of the week in terms of competition came on the first day of the meeting with Dawn Approach getting the better of Toronado in the St James’s Palace Stakes. Trainer Jim Bolger decided to run Dawn Approach at Ascot following the three year old colt’s Derby horror show and he was proven right as beat the Richard Hannon trained colt by the shortest of margins. Toronado lost nothing in defeat with many believing he would have won but for a bump up the home straight and a potential re-match in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood looks on the cards, something that would certainly serve to be a mouth-watering prospect.
There were two particularly impressive performances from juveniles at the Royal Meeting and both could be ones to watch when it comes to the classic races of 2014. Berkshire showed a super turn of foot when he won the Chesham for trainer Paul Cole and he has been receiving quotes of around 20/1 for the 2000 Guineas next year. Even more taking was War Command who simply bolted up to win the Coventry Stakes on day one of the meeting. The Coventry is always a key pointer for future stars and on that basis, the Aidan O’Brien trained youngster looks like being one to follow for the remainder of 2013 as a three-year-old in 12 months time.
One man that certainly deserves a mention in a round-up of Royal Ascot 2013 is Jockey James Doyle who certainly came of age over the fives days, particularly on day two, where the 25 year-old picked up a stunning 890/1 treble. Doyle produced a great ride on Al Kazeem to steer him to Prince of Wales Stakes success, while more glory came on Belgian Bill in the Royal Hunt Cup and Rizeena in the Queen Mary in the next two races. It was Johnny Murtagh who ultimately picked up the top jock award for the week but James Doyle was the real winner as he continued his raise his profile on the biggest stage of them all.
Overall though, there is no doubt that the 2013 Royal Ascot Meeting will be remembered best for the delight on the face of the Queen as Estimate crossed the finish line. The Ascot Gold Cup has so much history attached to it that a win for the reigning monarch is a massive boost for racing in general with the sport on the front pages for all the right reasons.