PAT HEALY: Pat looks back at a Royal Ascot meeting that had the lot and also argues the case for keeping jockeys out of the stewards room.
Royal Ascot 2023
What a fantastic five days of sport it was at Royal Ascot. It had everything, the racehorses, the tradition and pageantry, the personalities and the weather. It is so British, and it is so brilliant.
Hats off to Sir Francis Brooke and all his team at the track. I was blown away. Every year I look forward to it and every year it never disappoints.
We had 12 Irish winners over the five days, which of course added to it, we had winners for Dettori at his last Royal Ascot, we had an American winner, and there was even a Royal winner which is very important with a new monarch in situ.
From my point of view, the facilities for photographers were top-class and I couldn’t fault Royal Ascot 2023 in any way.
I jumped on the plane back from Heathrow on Saturday evening and I was smiling, just grateful and thankful to be over there for such a fantastic week.
Irish success stories
There was a notable win for Adrian Murray, who is based in County West Meath and no disrespect to Adrian, but he would not be that well-known across the pond. To see him have his first win at Royal Ascot – Valiant Force at 150/1 – was fantastic. In the process, he gave Amo Racing their first Royal Ascot winner, which was important too.
Gavin Cromwell and Gary Carroll claimed their second Royal Ascot success, two years on from when they won the Queen Mary, as they stuck with Snellen in the Chesham. We’ve long banged the drum about how good Gavin is, and whether it’s chasers, hurdlers or two-year-old fillies, Gavin has shown himself to be a top-class operator when it comes to training horses under any code.
It was fantastic for Jessica Harrington to gain her fourth Royal Ascot success with Villanova Queen. We all know the journey Jessica is on at the moment with her cancer diagnosis and she’s a woman that we all greatly admire.
In the process of that, it also marked Colin Keane’s first Royal Ascot win after 30 attempts. Colin finally got his first winner at the meeting and I’m sure it won’t be his last.
Vauban took advantage of his lenient handicap mark and stamped himself as one of the favourites for the Melbourne Cup. We all know that’s an itch that Willie Mullins wants to scratch and this could be his best chance yet.
He was hugely unlucky with Max Dynamite a couple of years ago. I think reading between the lines, Willie and Susannah and Rich Ricci have said to themselves that when they have the right bullet to fire, they’d head back there, and Vauban looks to be just that.
Tahiyra was just awesome in the Coronation Stakes. It was the first Royal Ascot success for Chris ‘Magic Man’ Hayes, and there is no better way to grab your first win at the Royal meeting than by making it a Group 1.
We’ve spoken about Tahiyra since she was a two-year-old and said that she was only going to get better. We’ll see where she rocks up next. Would she be an Arc filly this year? Maybe not, but I’d bet if Dermot Weld has his way she just might be staying in training for next year, and who’s to say she couldn’t be an Arc winner next year?
Aidan O’Brien sets more records
What can we say about Aidan O’Brien after four winners and six seconds over the five days? We know the Ballydoyle operation revolves a lot around Royal Ascot and I think they would have come away more than happy with their haul.
Paddington’s win in the St James’s Palace meant that Aidan overtook Sir Michael Stoute as the leading all-time trainer at Royal Ascot with 83 wins.
We’ve talked before about Willie Mullins going for his 100th Cheltenham Festival success and now we’re talking about Aidan going for a 100th Royal Ascot success. We’re living in a remarkable era and Aidan and Willie will be spoken about for generations to come.
It was also Aidan’s 168th UK Group 1 success. That goes along with his 115 Irish Group 1s and 56 French Group 1s. He’s an amazing man and leads an amazing operation.
Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien
What a unique situation it was with Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien both training winners on the same day on Friday. It’s a shame that Aidan didn’t manage to have a winner on the card, as that would have been something really special for the family. Who’s to say it won’t happen in the next few years?
It was Donnacha’s maiden Royal Ascot winner so it’s a big milestone in his career. Joseph and Donnacha are two great kids and I’m sure it won’t be their last wins at Royal Ascot.
The great Listowel playwright John B Keane couldn’t write what’s happening with Frankie Dettori! I’m sure that a ninth Gold Cup success, in his final ride in the race, was his highlight of Royal Ascot 2023.
He is the greatest showman, he is the greatest racing personality, and what a final season he’s having.
Why the bans?
Frankie picked up a nine-day ban for causing interference on the opening day of the meeting.
This is something that just drives me mad. What is the point in banning Frankie Dettori for nine days?
I’m not saying don’t penalise jockeys, but why not fine them instead? By doing that you’re not letting jockeys away with a crime, you are penalising them.
If he doesn’t win his appeal, he’s going to be missing from the Eclipse at Sandown, one of the feature days of the English racing calendar and one of the last days when people are going to get a chance to see Dettori in action.
I think racing shoots itself in the foot so many times by doing this.
We all saw the clip of Ryan Moore sitting down, throwing his head back and just taking 90 seconds to himself during the stewards’ enquiry on Saturday.
It should be like America; there should be no jockeys allowed into the stewards’ room. There’s no need for jockeys in there because jockeys in that position don’t tell the truth, we all know that, and if we were in the same position we wouldn’t either.
In America, you’re handed a phone and you tell the head of the stewards anything you have to tell them. That’s it.
I think the whole clip of PJ McDonald, Jamie Spencer and Ryan in the stewards’ room summed it up for me.
Stewards are professional enough now, and they have all the camera angles, that they don’t need to hear from jockeys. It’s farcical, it’s outdated, and it looks silly.
Until next week.