A is for ASCOT, and for ALCOHOL, and for ADMISSION. Pity the poor picnic police who stand in the way, breathalyser in hand, of the intoxicated influx coming from Car Park 1 in all their finery, after all their winery. I suspect some sort of underground passage – referred to as the Chanel Tunnel – will be in operation to save flushed face.
B is for BATTAASH, one of two possible answers to the question to the mirror mirror on the wall of who’s the fastest of them all. It’s a long time in Britain since we’ve seen one as super-sonically speedy as Battaash, and, besides fuelling the fire, his preparation might have involved rehearsal of some Lenny Kravitz karaoke, as the American Woman he’s warning to stay away from him is the female flying machine Lady Aurelia who has twice burnt up the Royal runway. It’s the most dynamic duel of the week, and maybe the year.
C is for CRACKSMAN, upwards of 10 lb clear on Timeform ratings of the opposition in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, hard to reason from his scramble at Epsom but easy to see from the series of performances that made him a global giant by the end of last year. This is the stage and the setting for a full-force Cracksman to take our breath away.
D is for DIAMOND JUBILEE, thankfully for it coming at the other end of the week to the King’s Stand, for fear of upstaging, but the international intrigue increases its importance, though the Australians and Americans are bashing heads with a bona-fide British bulldog in Harry Angel, whose power and pace counts for far more than his track record of 0 from 4 at Ascot, too much made of that.
E is for EQUILATERAL, the new kid on the sprinting block, pushing for favouritism for the Commonwealth Cup despite having never tried listed let alone pattern company as yet, but then again novice winners don’t usually do what he did at Doncaster by beating a subsequent-dual winner by 8 lengths without looking flat out.
F is for FRANCE, often overlooked in the buzz of the build-up to Royal Ascot but usually leaving with at least one winner. The St James’s Palace is all the better for their representatives this year, with certainly one and possibly both of Olmedo and Wootton, the first and unflattering fourth respectively from the French Guineas, aiming at Ascot.
G is for GOLD CUP, snatched last year from Order of St George by the now-sidelined Big Orange, who has passed the British baton onto Stradivarius, along with the blueprint of how to take down the long-distance doyen of recent years. Stradivarius may be more in the market to out-pounce rather than out-plod Order of St George, but, whatever the plans of attack, the Gold Cup will be a gripping 260 or so seconds.
H is for HARDWICKE STAKES, or the Crystal Ocean Benefit Fund to give the race its proper title.
I is for INVINCIBLE ARMY, the wise-guy pick against Equilateral and co in the Commonwealth Cup. There’s some sexier ones drawing the attention, but Invincible Army is of a certain strength, speed and standard that makes the place part probable and the win part possible of a thieving each-way bet.
J is for JERSEY, moved unceremoniously to the last race on the Wednesday, the first of a few changes this year that causes the slippers of familiarity to slide off your feet. As far as the make-up goes, it’s the usual mix of not-quite milers, not-quite sprinters and not-quite Group 1 horses, and the antidote to that is an unbeaten upgrader like Tabdeed, whose power plays at both Leicester (beat Yafta) and Nottingham (strung out a sprint field) suggests he’s up to this sort of league.
K is for KURIOUS, noted by Timeform’s two-year-old handicapper David Johnson as a livewire in the Queen Mary, given her professionalism and polish at Sandown, on top of the rarity of a debut winner for Henry Candy.
L is for LONDON SALE, the service station to the corner shop of bloodstock buying, where products and prices bear no relation to the real world, the dust bitten as soon as the cheque’s written.
M is for MERI DEVIE, for whom a mark of 91 looks tempting given the standard and stamina she showed in winning a high-end handicap hurdle over 2½m at the Punchestown Festival in April, for the go-to trainer when it comes to the Ascot Stakes, Willie Mullins having won three of the last six editions.
N is for NATALIE’S JOY, the highest-rated juvenile filly by Timeform, after just the one run at Goodwood, but what a run it was, winning by half the track and coming within a whisker of the juvenile track record. She’s classy enough for the Albany, she’s qualified enough for the Chesham, being by a sire who won over the requisite distance, and she ought to be clear favourite if the latter is the target, as it was for another Mark Johnston filly last year, Nyaleti, who split September and Masar that day.
O is for OUR PASSION, a flying filly from America with designs on cutting the colts down to size in the Windsor Castle, much like SHANG SHANG SHANG in the Norfolk, and the fact that both are trained by monster-maker Wesley Ward means the boys, as well as the bookies, are running scared.
P is for PRICE and for PATTERN PERFORMER, combining to make Dreamfield potentially the shortest-priced favourite in the history of the traditionally wide-open Wokingham.
Q is for QUEEN MARY, always on the most-wanted list of the aforementioned Wesley Ward when it comes to plundering prizes, and it says something for Chelsea Cloisters – the chosen one – that he’s scattering other formidable-looking fillies left, right and centre to sweep up supporting silverware.
R is for REDKIRK WARRIOR, or just Redkirk as he was once known in Britain, then for William Haggas when heading down the middle-distance road, before transitioning into a trailblazer in Australia. He and Merchant Navy, who checked into racing’s Ritz for a while on his way over, namely Ballydoyle, add a dramatic dimension to the Diamond Jubilee, and to the week.
S is for SERGEI PROKOFIEV, and you get the impression that he was identified very early as being the Ballydoyle bullet for the Coventry, hence he’s had three races to help the Scat Daddy within him get out. The climate has changed with John Gosden releasing two wrapped-up wolves into the wild, but Sergei Prokoviev is just warming up himself.
T is for THE IRISH ROVER, clearly the understudy to Sergei Prokoviev but finding his voice all the while, ready to shout up in the Norfolk.
U is for U S NAVY FLAG, who’s too good for the Jersey but too speedy for the St James’s Palace. That’s the theory, anyway, but he’s come a long way since beating just three home in the Coventry at this meeting last year, testament to his trainer.
V is for VASE, the QUEEN’S VASE, which had a makeover prior to last year, up in grade and down in trip, which definitely did its job, producing Stradivarius. There’s much talk this year of Southern France, supposedly in the fast lane to the St Leger.
W is for WITHOUT PAROLE, for whom one brushstroke distorts the bigger picture, not flashy at Sandown but maintaining his unbeaten record, working to put the finishing touches on him prior to his big day in the St James’s Palace Stakes. He looks the real deal.
X is for the X at the end of CALYX, one of the Gosden firecrackers who did something exceptional at Newmarket on his debut, making him the top-rated Timeform two-year-old after just the one run.
Y is for YOSHIDA, the American raider in the Queen Anne, though even in a sub-standard renewal his form is some way off that of the principals.
Z is for ZHUI FENG, winner of last year’s Hunt Cup, who’s up against it going for a repeat, but at least he begins with ‘Z’ and therefore gets me out of a spot.