Our man looks ahead to a star-studded week at Royal Ascot – and picks out his horses to follow

Our man looks ahead to a star-studded week at Royal Ascot – and picks out his horses to follow

06/11/2021

IT was at Ascot that celebrity Simon Cowell gained a passion for racing.

Next week I’m hoping every reader of this column will also be hooked as the Royal fixture gets under way on Tuesday afternoon with all 35 races live on ITV.

There are simply no other five consecutive days of equine rivalry like it in the world.

And with 12,000 racegoers in attendance under the next stage of the Government’s events research plan, it will be the closest the 'Sport of Kings' has been to normality since Cheltenham in March of 2020.

Cowell spoke to me at Epsom in an interview on ITV, and his words were gold dust for those trying to promote racing to a wider audience.

“I’ve got my son Eric with me today,” said the X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent supremo. “My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

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“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories. Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

It’s hard not to get jiggy about Royal Ascot. And I can’t wait. I’m in a very lucky position to be first to speak to the winning riders on terrestrial telly and each and every one will have a tale to tell. I love the challenge of getting nuggets out of them.

But who will I be speaking to?

Well, Frankie Dettori will surely be high on the list.

In Palace Pier, who will be short odds in the Queen Anne, and Stradivarius, hoping to match Yeats with four Gold Cups, racing’s great showman has two of the bankers of the week.

I won’t be opposing either of them. But alas while for the purists if they score there will be much to cheer about, for punters they won’t be making us rich!

Ascot, though, is not all about bettors. To see absolute class – like a Frankel or a Black Caviar – is to have a memory that will last long after cash has been spent.

That means I might be chatting to Jim Crowley, who rides a top notcher in Battaash in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes.

It’s arguable that when at his peak Battaash is the best sprinter on planet Earth. Some will take him on after a layoff caused by a small fracture, but if Charlie Hills has him ready he’ll be very hard to stop.

Certainly I will hope to chat with the champion jockey, Oisin Murphy, who knows what to say on these occasions and is fully capable of a knockout quote.

Murphy will hope for a huge effort from Alcohol Free in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes. She was hung out wide in the 1000 Guineas but seemed to get home over the mile having been successful over six furlongs in the Cheveley Park as a juvenile.

Watch out for Murphy in the Chesham on Andrew Balding’s Masekela and aboard Starman in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes a week today for Ed Walker.

The latter suggested he would live up to his name at York last time. Indeed, if connections had been fans of Elton John they might have named him Rocketman!

I’ll be surprised if Andrea Atzeni doesn’t bag a handicap or two for Roger Varian, while Adam Kirby, who is fresh from his amazing Derby success on Adayar, is never one to dismiss for Clive Cox. They are a potent combination.

Speaking of which, Tom Marquand and William Haggas will be going all out for success, as will William Buick and James Doyle who will rely heavily on Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ben Curtis bangs something in for Mark Johnston as well.

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And finally, Ryan Moore might not be the easiest to get a tune out of in an after race interview, but when he does let go trust me, he’s a fascinating man.

If he ends up on last season’s brilliant three-year-old filly Love in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes it will be most certainly for me the biggest moment of the meeting.

Aidan O’Brien’s daughter of Galileo just looked a star in the 1000 Guineas and Oaks. She could light up 2021 like few others.

Indeed, at Royal Ascot 2021 on so many levels one could say: “All you need is love, love, love is all you need”.

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