Royal ascot

Dear Mary: how do I stop our cousins’ dog peeing on the curtains?

Q. I have a friend whom I see quite often who keeps asking me if I will ‘get her invited’ for a weekend to the beautiful and luxurious country house of another friend. The country-house host is a long-standing friend and she barely knows the friend who wants to be invited. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting they invite her but am under constant pressure to do so. I am very fond of this first friend but am really embarrassed that she cannot see how pushy she is being and I don’t know how to get her to stop going on about this. What should I do? – F.G., Bath A. Next

Frankie gets his last Royal Ascot hurrah – in spades

We all wanted Frankie to have a last Royal Ascot hurrah. In the end he got four, including a ninth Gold Cup to list on the Dettori honours board, a ride in carriage four of the Royal Procession and a cheeky kiss for the Queen. Ascot has always done for him what the Hollies crowd at Edgbaston have done for Stuart Broad, revved up by his flailing arms as he pounds into the wicket. But let us not grieve: a truly thrilling Ascot provided plenty more evidence of quality in the saddle. John Gosden wryly noted of Mostahdaf: ‘He’s going to enjoy being a stallion’ ‘Riding is about reaction,’ said

Why racing needs Frankie Dettori

Heading for a holiday in Sardinia, I remembered that the last time we were there our engine-less, drifting boat was rescued by a Mr Dettori. Mrs Oakley’s relief was tempered only by my disappointment that our saviour wasn’t Frankie or even a relative. This time it looks as though it is Frankie, the world’s favourite sardine, who might need rescue. Imagine Morecambe splitting with Wise or Torvill walking out on Dean. The racing world has focused on little else since John Gosden announced, after openly criticising some of his stable jockey’s rides at Royal Ascot, that he and Frankie Dettori are taking a sabbatical. John Gosden is the epitome of

The joy of Royal Ascot

In a disintegrating country, stuck for the moment with a Prime Minister who can’t see the difference between a proliferation of photo-ops and the act of governing, we needed a Royal Ascot week. No racecourse in the world does photo-ops better than Ascot – the carriage processions, the toppers and tails (and yes, Madam, wear what appears to be a pair of mating macaws on your titfer if that is what rocks your boat), the bandstand singsongs. But at Ascot they know that the show counts for nothing without the substance and in its enthusiastic embrace of internationalism (another contrast with Downing Street) Ascot delivers, bringing top-class contestants from the

The rise of older jockeys

There are many facets to Royal Ascot’s appeal. For some it is glamour, style and opulence. For some it is the betting opportunities afforded by large fields, for others an opportunity to pay tribute to a revered monarch and to share her obvious pleasure in its equine stars. What I love is the sheer intensity of the competition. The immeasurable kudos afforded to owners, trainers and jockeys of being able to say you have had a Royal Ascot winner ensures the fiercest effort from all concerned: there is no such thing as an easy victory at Royal Ascot. Few this year will forget the spectacle of Frankie Dettori and the

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

Simply the best | 25 June 2015

Nothing pleases the Royal Ascot crowd more than a winner for the meeting’s crucial supporter, the Queen. Imagine, then, the dilemma of one of her Windsor Castle lunch guests, trainer Roger Charlton, when Her Majesty asked him, ‘Are you going to beat me?’ on the day of the Tercentenary Stakes. Charlton is one of the six Flat trainers with whom she has horses, but in that race his entry was Times Test, whom he trains for Khalid Abdullah, and Her Majesty’s runner was Peacock, trained by Richard Hannon. Charlton didn’t know how to answer and just hoped for a dead heat. After Times Test had run out one of the

The turf | 20 June 2019

Boris Johnson, Remainers might like to be reminded, does sometimes change his mind under pressure. Some years ago, as editor of The Spectator, he dropped the then weekly Turf column, as he told me, ‘to provide more room for politics at the front of the magazine’. Fortunately for me, so many readers protested at its absence that he reinstated it, although on a fortnightly basis. That is why sometimes, given the necessary interval between copy submission and publication, there cannot be coverage that might be expected, as with Royal Ascot this week. At next year’s meeting, one thing will have changed: the newest event on the Royal Ascot card, the

Royal Ascot is not the same without Henry Cecil

For a moment it seemed incongruous reading obituaries in the same week of Sir Henry Cecil and of Esther Williams, the Hollywood star whom most of us only ever remember seeing in a swimsuit amid whirling patterns of leggy lovelies in water ballets. Then I recalled her comment that the only thing Hollywood’s moguls ever changed in her series of films were her leading men and the water in the pool and I realised there was something of a parallel. Esther Williams did her thing so exquisitely that all people ever wanted to see was a repeat. Those whom she did it with became irrelevant, and there was something of


‘Thank goodness for racing,’ says Rachel Trevor-Morgan. She is a milliner — a hat maker — so it’s no surprise she’s grateful. Without weddings and race days, many milliners would be out of business. If you want to gain entry into the Royal Enclosure during Ascot week, a hat is non-negotiable. And it’s not just any old hat: the rules dictate that your headpiece must have a base of at least 10cm in diameter. The Ascot ruling was brought in in 2012 to put a stop to the trend for tiny fascinators, essentially just twiddles of feathers and fluff that perch above the hairline. For the very latest in fascinators,

The turf | 2 August 2018

On a foggy November day in 1965 the young son of a Barbadian police chief was one of six contestants tried out in the commentary box at Newbury to find a new BBC television racing correspondent. Peter O’Sullevan had put in a good word for Michael Stoute but on his first sight of jump racing that day he finished runner-up to Julian Wilson, the only one of the applicants who had travelled first class from Paddington. Sir Michael, as he is today (the knighthood awarded for services to Barbados tourism), would have made a fine commentator with his rich voice, knowing smile and appealing chuckle, but it has been to

The turf | 5 July 2018

Let’s get the crowing over first. The returns from our Twelve to Follow over jumps last season were somewhere well south of disappointing but for those who kept faith the Flat season is bringing handsome recompense. Almost immediately, Hugo Palmer’s Labrega won at Haydock at 9–2. Then, in the very first race at Royal Ascot, the Queen Anne Stakes, Eve Johnson-Houghton’s Accidental Agent flew home under Charles Bishop, named as the jockey to follow this season at a whopping 33–1. ‘Stand by for a shower,’ said the emotional trainer after landing not only her first Royal Ascot winner but also her first Group One. Accidental Agent was named after Eve’s

Royal Ascot

It’s time to scuttle under a rock if you are a Folkestone or Cornish crab: 7,000 of them will be consumed in Royal Ascot week, along with 2,900 lobsters, 160,000 glasses of Pimm’s, 51,000 bottles of champagne and 30,000 chocolate eclairs. Better get your chopper booking in fast, too: 400 helicopters will descend on to the Berkshire course during the week. In purely racing terms, Royal Ascot isn’t quite yet a Dubai with rhododendrons. Invitational events like Sheikh Mohammed’s World Cup in March and the Hong Kong International race day in December pull in more worldwide equine stars, and Ascot doesn’t have a centrepiece race like the Derby, Grand National

The sport of kings

Queen Victoria disapproved heartily of the racing set and of her son Bertie’s involvement in the sport. But she must have noted a dinner conversation with Bismarck reported to her by Disraeli. The German Chancellor had asked if racing was still encouraged in England. Never more so, said Disraeli, to which Bismarck responded: There will never be socialism in England. You are safe so long as the people are devoted to racing. Here a gentleman cannot ride down the street without 20 persons saying to each other, ’Why has that fellow a horse and I have not one?’ In England the more horses a nobleman has, the more popular he

What is to be done about a world where everything is for sale?

Next time you read about an auctioneer’s gavel coming down on a $150 million painting bought by some flunkey representing the ruling family of Qatar, don’t ooh or aah, but think of those monsters in Iraq and Syria who have their children pose on video while holding up the severed heads of innocents. And no, it’s not a stretch — without Qatar’s gold Islamic State would not exist, not even in the movies. Let me put it another way: had Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover given White House dinners for Al Capone, the outcry would have been heard all the way down to Patagonia. Yet, as reported in these here

Joan Collins’s diary: Why I gave up on Ascot – and where I go instead

Can there be anything more perfect than early July in London, when the sun is shining, the sky a cloudless azure and the temperature hovers in the mid-seventies? Sorry, I still do Fahrenheit. It’s party time everywhere, with all the annual events happening, but I don’t do Ascot any more, too waggish, or Henley, too wet, or Wimbledon, too warm. The former has changed radically over the last 20 years, when I was fiercely censured for borrowing another woman’s Royal Enclosure badge, on a dare that no one would recognise me. Now these high jinks would be deemed innocent in comparison to the behaviour that goes on: people snogging, passing

Yes, I’m biased – but this was a great Royal Ascot

The one sight I was determined not to miss at Royal Ascot was that of the Queen from over the water coming to claim the hearts of English racegoers. The commanding way in which Treve won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last October stamped her as something very special and she should have been worth going a long way to see. But it turned out that the damp turf of Longchamp in the autumn and the quick ground at Ascot in June were not all the same to her. Although sheer quality brought her home in third in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, the fizz had escaped Treve’s bottle

Royal Ascot triumph: Johnny Murtagh is the best trainer riding

Ginger Rogers, clever girl, did everything that Fred Astaire did — but she did it backwards. I am looking backwards in this Turf column and doing so without apologies because it was such a wonderful Ascot. The sheer delight on the Queen’s face when Estimate made her the first reigning monarch to have a winner of the Gold Cup would have made the meeting on its own. But emotions were high, too, when we had two winners from the late Sir Henry Cecil’s yard, now presided over by Lady Cecil, although triumph became tragedy when one of them,  Thomas Chippendale, collapsed and died after the finishing post. We had the