|Tuesday, 19 June 2012
: Meet Anne, known as 'Brandy Nan' for her fondness of the drink, described as unwise, small-minded, vulgar and 'the quintessence of ordinariness' by some of her contemporaries; and meet Sid, likewise as much maligned as praised in his time, his personal taste said to have been 'low and frivolous', but a close confidant to Anne, with a significant shared interest, until a bust-up turned the friends into enemies.
It sounds like a script straight out of the Springer/Kyle collection, but Anne and Sid, individually and collectively, are the reason we're at fever pitch right now, because the Sid in question is Sidney Godolphin, whose job was in politics but heart was in racing, pioneer of thoroughbred breeding, the Godolphin name living on so conspiciously today, while Anne is Queen Anne, who transformed a pastime into a professional sport, including the foundation of Ascot racecourse in 1711 and the showcase meeting we're all still engrossed with, this year perhaps more than ever.
The fact, then, that the person who started it all off is honoured by the race that starts it all off, the Queen Anne Stakes, is fitting...but it doesn't fit in, not ideally, at least not this time around. Let's say you went to a Chesney Hawkes concert, which apparently you still can (at Southampton Uni during Royal Ascot week), and just as you were settling into your seat with your beer in hand and shame in check, Chesney burst onto the stage and belted out The One And Only, the initial euphoria would soon be replaced by despair along the lines of 'well where the hell do we go from here?' Similarly, if you turn up for a week's worth of horsepower, and the world's best racehorse - sorry Australians but that's just the way it is right now - Frankel has delivered his dramatic monologue in act one scene one, the embodiment of poetry in motion, then you're looking down a steep hill as of 14:35 on Tuesday. I'm joking, of course, because there are other crowd-pleasers such as I'm A Man Not A Boy and Another Fine Mess for Chesney to pull out. So what else is happening on day one?
TUESDAY TALKING POINT
For so long a belittler let alone sceptic, I'm now starting to think there may be something in this climate change nonsense, with the weather fluctuation from balmy to barmy by the week, and it's playing havoc with the ground, which is obviously a key issue going into the Royal meeting. Having said it's a key issue, in actual fact the equation is simplified in that you spend five minutes looking for horses who go well in softer conditions while maintaining the pompous pretence that 'I've done all my work based on fast ground', which also acts as a ready-made excuse if and when things go wrong. With more rain forecast, the Ascot ground is likely to be good to soft at best come Tuesday, so get ahead of the game now.
RACE OF THE DAY
Frankel's won't be a race, while the St James's Palace has a substandard look to it with the three-year-olds much of a muchness outside of Camelot, and so the other Group 1 on the day, the King's Stand, could top the bill, its field on paper scoring highly on both quality and quantity, the latter an upshot of a new dance move known as the 'Black Caviar swerve', not unprecedented as we already had the 'Frankel swerve' over here, though Frankel himself has mastered the Black Caviar swerve. Look out for the 'Camelot swerve' later in the year.
I've done all my work based on fast ground, which Bated Breath and Sole Power relish, as they proved when one-two and breaking the Haydock track record in the Temple, and neither may be so potent if conditions are indeed on the soft side. The King's Stand, leg one in Britain of the Global Sprint Series, duly has an international feel to it, as besides England's Bated Breath and Ireland's Sole Power, we've got France's Wizz Kid and the Hong Kong duo of Little Bridge and Joy And Fun; and needless to say there's a big Australian player, namely Ortensia, who beat Sole Power by further in Dubai than Bated Breath did at Haydock. On Timeform
ratings, Ortensia (123) is almost a stone behind Black Caviar (136), but, with the mares allowance, that's still enough to make her just about top-rated for the King's Stand - a scarey thought for the Davids willing to take on Goliath in the Diamond Jubilee on the Saturday.
FUTURE STAR OF THE DAY
Fee Fi Fo Fum. There might have been more visually impressive maiden winners this year, but few if any have the same strength of form as Englishman, who beat Smoothtalkinrascal at Newbury, with Sign of The Zodiac back in fourth and Cay Verde fifth, all successful subsequently, twice in the case of Cay Verde who ran to 103 in a listed race at the Curragh. Bigger and stronger than most of his age, which obviously has its advantages at this time of the year, Englishman did very well to get up at Newbury from his position further back than the other principals, coupled with his blatant inexperience, and what's more it was soft that day, so the recent rain is a positive in his case, but he's an exciting prospect whatever the ground: be it firm or be it dead, I'll back him big to earn my bread.
TWEET OF THE DAY
@blackcaviar2006 Beat that, sheila. Frankel Lord Grimthorpe opens a Twitter account just to taunt the Black Caviar contingent following Frankel's eight-length romp in the Queen Anne.
CERTAINTY OF THE DAY
2) The Queen to be dressed in lemon yellow: trust me on this, I have sources within the palace.
3) A Nicky Henderson-trained jumper starts favourite for the Ascot Stakes.
BET TO HAVE NOW
In what we've established as the race of the day, the competitive King's Stand, it's surprising that, of the highlighted principals, Wizz Kid is the biggest priced of them at [14.0]* . Her form is almost as good as any, plus she's younger than those ahead of her in the market, therefore naturally liable to improve more, and another edge she has over some is the all-important track experience, taking to Ascot well when beating all bar Deacon Blues in the Champions Sprint last October, since when she's raised her game again with a smooth win in a Group 2 at Chantilly earlier this month. Ground comes all alike to Wizz Kid, and I'm convinced her odds will be a fair bit shorter on the day.
BET TO HAVE ON THE DAY
For all those heathens and spoilsports who'd rather castigate Frankel for what he hasn't yet had the chance to do rather than celebrate what he has done, I'm pleased to report that there is a fresh challenger in the Queen Anne in the shape of Farhh. Okay, so Farhh won't be good enough to lay a glove on Frankel, but he's potentially good enough to go the distance against the next-best usual suspects. Make no mistake, Farhh is a seriously talented colt, just unable to show it off so far in an injury-restricted career, but his comeback win at Thirsk was a monster handicap performance, and that it came in a mere Thirsk handicap may mean he's underestimated, though all the better for us. Get on him on for a place on the day, and he's also worth a few quid in the 'without Frankel' market, both win and place.
It would be fitting if Godolphin's Farhh showed up well in the opener at Royal Ascot, because in a sense it would be the old team together again, the team that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to for starting it all off: Anne and Sid.
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