A memorable Royal Ascot

You tend to like a jockey who has just ridden you a 16-1 winner, as Callum Shepherd did last Saturday at Ascot, bringing home Isle of Jura with a perfect ride as the three-length victor of the Hardwicke Stakes. But it wasn’t that which has elevated him to my top ten favourite riders: it was the maturity of his words afterwards. Just a month previously, after riding Ambiente Friendly to victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial, Callum had been ‘jocked off’ by the owners, who gave the ride to Rab Havlin for the real thing at Epsom. He was not the first jockey to be so snubbed, nor will he

Ascot was a high-profile disaster for jump racing

The government may for the moment have disbanded its circular firing squad, but racing has never shown a greater ability for self-harm. For once last Saturday I was not on a racecourse. Unfortunately, Mrs Oakley had had a late-night mishap with an Ugg boot and after a midnight ambulance, a night in A&E and her hip-replacement operation, my presence was needed elsewhere. Jump jockeys are only too familiar with A&E wards and limb-setting operations, but on our first acquaintance we marvelled not only at the skill and care of the NHS teams but especially at their patience with an astonishingly high proportion of abusive and aggressive patients with dementia. As

A feast of feelgood emotion

Ascot’s image is all champagne and fascinators, high society and high rollers. Said Art Buchwald: ‘Ascot is so exclusive that it is the only racecourse in the world where the horses own the people.’ But there is another Ascot — one entirely comfortable with tweeds, corduroys, cloth caps and woolly jumpers. It might not have been. Bernard Fitzalan-Howard, the 16th Duke of Norfolk and the Queen’s doughty representative at the course from 1945 to 1972, allegedly declared that jumping would be introduced at Ascot only over his dead body. Fortunately it didn’t require his early demise. There has been jump racing at Ascot since 1965 and I doubt you could

Cyrname was lucky to survive his shocking fall at Ascot

Few jumpers have a better record at Ascot than the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname. He triumphed in the Betfair Chase at the Berkshire course in February 2019 by 17 lengths with three Grade One winners behind him. It was at Ascot in November, in an enthralling duel, that he ended the mighty Altior’s record of 19 successive victories over jumps and Cyrname was a short-priced favourite last Saturday to take a second Betfair Chase with only three horses daring to join the highest-rated chaser in Britain. But it was not to be. On rain-soaked turf, soon officially changed from soft to heavy, Cyrname was never going with quite his usual zest.