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No support cast but Royal Ascot still has the top stars

James Jose/Dubai
Filed on June 15, 2020
Jockey James Doyle leads horse Blue Point after winning the King's Stand Stakes race at Royal Ascots on June 18, 2019. (AFP file)

Godolphin's true blue hero Blue Point races to a scintillating win to defend the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes. Five days later, Blue Point, the best sprinter in Europe - the 'Usain Bolt' of horse racing, waltzes into the history books to become only the second horse since 2003 to win two races.

That prompts His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, owner of the racing operation to a celebratory dance.

These were scenes from a year ago but it now seems like an alternate universe. As Royal Ascot braces for yet another renewal of its prestigious horse race meeting, it won't be quite the same.

It would be a rather strange feeling at the Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire when racing takes place from Tuesday to Saturday.

It will be the first time in 100 years, following the two World Wars, that the festival, Britain's biggest sporting event, will run behind closed doors.

The coronavirus pandemic that has raged across the world means that the English public, who are quite passionate about horse racing, will not be able to attend.

Founded by Queen Anne in 1711, Royal Ascot encapsulates the true British essence and transcends it from just merely being a sporting experience.

It has embedded itself into the social fabric in Britain and its age-old traditions are still followed religiously.

The Queen, who is an avid fan and sends out runners, makes her appearance everyday of the meeting.

The festival attracts top race horses, owners, trainers and jockeys from around the globe every year and this year is no different.

But this year will be different in many ways as the race-going public, dressed to the nines, the men - in their three-piece suits and hats - and the women, in their gorgeous high fashion dresses and heels, and lest we forget, their very creative and attractive hats, will be missing.

They will have to make do by watching it on the telly, while Queen Elizabeth II, for the first time, will not be making her traditional appearance at the races. She will instead watch the proceedings from Windsor Castle.

The noise, the cheers, the atmosphere, that buzz, and quite obviously, the strawberries and cream will be missing but it still promises to be a cracker of a five days.

The support cast may not be there because of the health protocols in place, but the festival still has a heavyweight stellar cast on the bill for the enhanced list of 36 races.

Ace British-Barbadian trainer Sir Michael Stoute, the most successful conditioner at Ascot, will be aiming to put daylight between him and Aidan O'Brien, with the 74-year-old looking to add to his 81 winners. O'Brien has 70.

And we could be in for more of Frankie Dettori's famous 'Flying Dismount' with the celebrated Italian jockey on 67 winners. Ryan Moore is close behind on 57.

Meanwhile, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, who holds a special connection with Britain, has many top runners running in the royal blue silks of Godolphin.

Godolphin have Terebellum, Magic Lily, Barney Roy, Final Song, Cross Counter, Moonlight Spirit, Fast Start, Old Persian, Royal Crusade, Al Dabaran, Creative Force and Pinatubo, in the Group races.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Minister of Finance, too has runners across the five days.

james@khaleejtimes.com


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