AUTHOR: Lewis Williams

LOOK SHARPE: Royal Ascot Ramblings

Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE brings you his latest ‘LOOK SHARPE’ column…

They raced at Ascot for the first time, on August 11, 1711 – a Saturday, doing so also on the Monday, writes GRAHAM SHARPE.

Queen Anne had decided there should be a racecourse at Ascot Heath. What she said, went. The course was designed and constructed by the Duke of Somerset. There was a second meeting on September 17 and 18. Accounts from back then survive, recording that the sum of £558 19/5 was paid to one William Lowen for his efforts in getting the sport up and running.

Slowly but surely racing was becoming established, but in 1714 Queen Anne died, and racing with her, until 1720.

1830 Derby winner Priam landed Ascot’s Eclipse Foot race at the 1832 meeting – the tasteful prize for which was one of great horse Eclipse’s hooves ‘set as a snuff box in gold.’

Famed beauty and actress, Lily Langtry had to hide behind the false identity of ‘Mr Jersey’, in 1882, when it was not the done thing for the fairer sex to own racehorses – despite Queen Anne’s early involvement. The Jersey-born celebrity’s horse, Milford, won the 1882 Coventry Stakes.

Alluded to in James Joyce’s book, ‘Ulysses’, acclaimed by some as a work of genius, derided by others (such as me) who find it incomprehensible, is 20/1 1904 Ascot Gold Cup winner, Throwaway.

The McNab won the second race of the day at Royal Ascot on June 18, 1930 – only for a fierce thunderstorm to strike the course, killing one Mr Hobein from Stockport who had been sheltering under a bookie’s brolly. The course was flooded and raing abandoned. On the same date in 1964 the entire Gold Cup day card was abandoned due to torrential rain.

Aged just 14, Lester Piggott made his Royal Ascot debut as a jockey in 1950, finishing unplaced on Eastern Saga in the Ascot Stakes.

100/6 Malka’s Boy won the Wokingham Stakes in 1952 – giving Lester Piggott his first Royal Ascot winner.

Later to be knighted, Peter O’Sullevan first commentated on Royal Ascot in 1953 – his sprinter, Be Friendly, won the King’s Stand Stakes in 1967. His owner greeted the victory as ‘a totally unattainable dream.’

A children’s playground was introduced to the meeting in 1955 on the advice of holiday camp magnate Sir Billy Butlin, who mentioned the idea to the Duke of Norfolk, who enabled it.

The Sunninghill Stakes of 1960 is a strong contender for the title of: ‘Dullest Royal Ascot Race Ever’. High Porch 1/50, beat his one rival, a 50/1 shot, by 12 lengths. He did, though, complete a treble on the day for jockey Jimmy Lindley.

‘SORRY, SIR, you can’t come in here as you don’t have the correct badge’ declared an official at the Owners and Trainers’ bar in 1982. Not wishing to create a fuss, all-time great trainer Vincent O’Brien did not argue….

Pat Eddery had a tough day at the Royal Ascot office on June 20, 1986, when he was thrown twice – from both Dallas and Live In Hope, before their races.

Reverend Thickness was never likely to win the 1996 Royal Hunt Cup – after all, he was dead. But trainer Alan Bailey declared him for the race anyway, hoping to recover the £360 entry fee.

For the first time, the BBC screened all six races live at Royal Ascot in 1997 – but only because play at the England-Australia Test Match was abandoned.

By winning the Ascot Gold Cup in 2000, Kayf Tara, third the year before, winner in 1998, became the first runner since Anticipation in 1819, to regain the Cup, which was established in 1722.

‘Today’s meeting is widely billed as Ladies’ Day’ observed racing journalist Lydia Hislop in 2007, adding – ‘To any sensible woman it’s Ascot Gold Cup day.’ 8/13 Yeats won it for the second time.

Trainer John Best broke his Royal Ascot duck in style as his 100/1 shot Flashmans Papers won the 2008 Windsor Castle Stakes.

An article by Marcus Armytage in 2009 in the Telegraph revealed that racegoers at Royal Ascot had tried to smuggle into the track, a parrot and a cat – the former on its owner’s shoulder, the latter ‘impeccably dressed in a bow tie.’ At the same meeting Nicky Henderson-trained Caracciola won the Queen Alexandra Stakes, aged 12, becoming the oldest Royal Ascot winner, and the oldest to win a Listed race.

Rolling Stone drummer, Charlie Watts, presented the trophy to Henry Cecil after his Father Time won the 2009 King Edward VII Stakes – his 71st Royal Ascot winner, but first for seven years.

150/1 shot, Nando Parrado became the longest-odds Royal Ascot winner ever, when landing the 2020 Coventry Stakes. The previous record holders were 100-1 outsiders Fox Chapel, in the 1990 Britannia Stakes, and Flashmans Papers, in the 2008 Windsor Castle Stakes.

Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.



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