#OffTheBridle with J.T McCoy - Royal Ascot
Horse Racing: Royal Ascot - Social butterflies & hand grenades
In recent years Royal Ascot, the summer’s premier flat racing meeting, has attracted some rather bad press.
Is it really the drunken free-for-all that the red-tops would have you believe, or is it the top-of-the-tree, high society spectacle that the predominantly well-healed flat racing fraternity look forward to for each year?
According to my brother-in-law, Tony, it’s a regal affair. What Tony (he hates being called Tony) knows about racing, you could write on an ice cube, yet he dons his top hat every year and spends a day or two in the Royal Enclosure with his parents.
“I’d love to go one day”, I said to him, disturbing him from his Bloody Mary and copy of the Economist.
The response was a very polite “Yes, well, we’ll see if there’s a spare ticket, although I think one has to be nominated and have been to Ascot a certain number of times before one can enter the Royal Enclosure”. Translation: “You’ll be lucky you common, scruffy ****.”
“Thanks Tony, I prefer watching racing on TV anyway.”
But is Ascot exclusively full of such similar social climbers, who are there to be seen rather than appreciate the racing? Or is it the ubiquitous ‘chav’ who is in the majority, who dons his shiny grey suit, seen only once this year for a recent court appearance, and revels in the £90 bottles of Laurent Perrier which will be regurgitated later that day, most likely into a pint glass and downed again, whilst two women in the same dress kick seven shades out of each other the by the pre-parade ring?
I’m not quite sure as to the answer, but it shows the wonderfully diverse nature and broad appeal of the sport, whether you’re a fan of racing or not. Within 100 yards you could have a family enjoying a day out with kids in tow, a group of lads or lasses who fancy getting dressed up for a day on the smash, and then our monarch, Her Majesty the Queen. I recall once betting on the colour of the Queen’s hat on the opening day of Royal Ascot, 2006 I think it was. Turquoise steamed home at 14/1. The usual Lamb Dhansak was upgraded to King Prawns that night.
One thing’s for sure - the sights, sounds and people-watching next week will be marvellous. Let’s just hope ITV don’t wheel out Gok Wan like Channel 4 used to, to go around patronising women in high street brand dresses and squawking “You look amaaaaazing, darling” as he’s sick in his mouth. I, for one, don’t tune into coverage of arguably the world’s most famous racing meeting to see what people are wearing. ITV Racing – if you are reading this, keep the hat analysis to a minimum! Although if you happen to see Tony in his top hat, give him a slap from me.
That’s enough about the people and the fashion. Look out for my next column over the weekend when we’ll preview 5 days of the best racing action you’ll ever see, and we’ll endeavour to pick out a few winners to keep us in clover.