Kevin ryan

Royal Ascot was a triumph – even without the cheers and the hats

Royal Ascot it wasn’t: for the first time in her 68-year reign, thanks to Covid-19, the Queen was not there. Nor were the owners, the crowds, the hats or the morning suits. But just as the Cheltenham Festival gave us the last great sporting spectacle before lockdown, so Ascot celebrated the behind-closed-doors return of sport with five days of supreme skill and drama. As the no-nonsense Hayley Turner put it after a 33-1 victory: ‘It’s still an Ascot winner. Still the same race, the same grade of horses. It’s just as hard to ride winners whether anyone is here or not.’ The smooth Ascot operation provided a masked-up, biosecure environment