‘Racing isn’t a team sport,’ the diehards used to tell us about the Shergar Cup, Ascot’s annual contest for three-rider teams representing Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Rest of the World, and the Girls. How odd then that the annual extravaganza of six handicaps lavishly sponsored by Dubai Duty Free with its frenziedly twirling cheerleaders and belting theme tunes, its jockey team uniforms and its Silver Saddle prize for the top points-winner, should once again last Saturday have attracted a sellout crowd of 27,000, the biggest turnout the course achieves outside of Royal Ascot. The Shergar Cup may not seem entirely natural to those of us who reach for the Racing Post before we butter our breakfast toast, but it does to those who have downloaded a couple of apps and Snapchatted with half a dozen friends before they have sunk their morning smoothie — because it is Fun, a full day-out experience with a pop concert to follow. Never mind incidentals like the Great Britain and Ireland team being comprised of three Irish riders: Jamie Spencer, Fran Berry and the Hong Kong-based Neil Callan. With racing competing for an ever harder to attract leisure pound it is an event which brings in the first-timers.
Purists were able to enjoy seeing Jamie Spencer ride his 2,000th winner and the chance to assess the merits of overseas riders like Adrie de Vries, 12 times champion in the Netherlands and a top jockey in Germany. On Euchen Glen in the two-miler, patiently sitting last before coming through smoothly to win, he produced the perfect waiting ride. Scottish-based trainer Jim Goldie noted contentedly: ‘Nothing was lost in translation.’ Cheerfulness abounded. After Alexander Plietsch, also German-based, had won the mile race on Raising Sand, his first success at Ascot, I joked with trainer Jamie Osborne that he was clearly no Brexiteer.