Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Article excerpt

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 most impressive winners of the week, beating Peacock by three-and-a-quarter lengths, he reflected, 'I don't think I'll get lunch again.' A vote among the crowd would probably have had him incarcerated in the Tower.

It wasn't a happy week for the Queen, always the most sporting of owners: her Touchline messed up the start in the Sandringham Handicap and endured considerable traffic problems before finishing third and her Capel Path was injured in the Britannia Handicap and taken to the Newmarket equine hospital.

Ascot is often about owners and trainers but this year Britain's international racing festival was all about the jockeys. Two of the most popular wins were those of champion jockey Richard Hughes on Illuminate and Arab Dawn: this was his last Royal Ascot as a jockey but few doubt that he will be back soon in his new role next season as a trainer. Frankie Dettori's glorious revival continued. Having won this year's Derby on Golden Horn and Prix de Diane on Star of Seville, his victory on Osaila in the Sandringham Handicap was his 50th at Royal Ascot. Two more followed on Times Test and on Undrafted in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes for Ascot's favourite American trainer Wesley Ward, who declared, 'You can have a Porsche against Porsches and you still gotta have the right guy and this is a magical guy. He's just a cool sitter and a go-getter.' Hard to sum up Frankie's instinctive gifts better than that.

Last summer Jamie Spencer announced his impending retirement. Fortunately he thought better of it and the master of the finishing swoop reminded us of his talents with another Royal Ascot win. On The Grey Gatsby Jamie should probably have won the Prince of Wales's Stakes had not a piece of legal but ruthless riding by Frankie on Western Hymn kept him pinned to the rail until it was too late for his finishing burst to take him past the winner Free Eagle. …

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