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Steve Jones: The Royal Ascot 2022 Review

June 20, 2022

THE racing was as glorious as the weather as Royal Ascot 2022 proved there isn’t anything quite as brilliant as British sport at its best.

All the traditional grandeur of the world’s greatest Flat meeting was back and it was complimented by some of the most thrilling action seen at the Royal track.

The five days were packed with the usual heroes, villains, triumphs, frustrations and some of the world’s very best racehorses doing what they were born to do.

Here’s a look back at a truly super Royal Ascot.

 

Performance of the week

There were so many contenders but one stood out for so many ways.

Ascot’s favourite son, Frankie Dettori, had endured a torrid time when he walked out for the Coronation Stakes on Friday.

He was greeted by his biggest supporter of recent years in John Gosden. The towering trainer had not attempted to hide his disappointment of the ride Dettori had given Stradivarius in his attempt to win a fourth Gold Cup.

The usual bounce had gone from Dettori’s stride as he was legged up on Inspiral, a filly who was making her seasonal reappearance having missed her intended engagement in the 1000 Guineas.

Both horse and rider had questions to answer. What followed was simply breathtaking as Inspiral dashed through the field with a stunning change of pace to win easily.

It opens up the prospect of a super summer of mile contests with Queen Anne winner Baaeed, St James’s Palace hero Coerbus and star Irish filly Homeless Songs all looking top class.

 

Ride of the week

Ryan Moore hasn’t been immune to criticism at Flat racing’s biggest meeting down the years.

This week the knockers were nowhere to be seen as Coolmore’s number one rider was simply sublime.

His name would have appeared on the shortlist for ‘ride of the week’ three or four times. His front-running performance on Hardwicke Stakes winner Broome on Saturday was top-notch but he bettered it little more than an hour later.

His ride on last year’s winner Rohaan in the Wokingham couldn’t have been more different but it was even more incredible.

He switched to the stands side from a middle draw, bided his time before unleashing Dave Evans’ speedster between rivals with a superbly-timed challenge.

Just brilliant.

Trainer of the week

The Aussies and their star sprinter Nature Strip stole the show on the opening day but another accent from Down Under could be heard in the winners’ enclosure over the next couple of days.

Jane Chapple-Hyam has been in Britain for the best part of 40 years and has been training in Newmarket since 2005.

She’s been one of the most-underrated trainers for a good chunk of that time and this week she showed how good she is.

Sending just three runners to Ascot she came back with the Group 2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes trophy thanks to Saffron Beach and added the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes prize with Claymore downing the Queen’s odds-on Reach For The Moon.

Her third runner was 40-1 Royal Hunt cup outsider Intellogent. He finished second. Superb training.

 

The Fastest

It’s a surprise Maverick wasn’t Australian.

When it comes to speed, Aussie racing fans feel the need and their hero Nature Strip proved the Top Gun in the opening day’s King’s Stand Stakes.

Chris Waller’s speedster blew his rivals away with a frighteningly-fast five-furlong dash down Ascot’s straight. The best of the British and Irish never had a chance.

It reminded me of another 80’s film, the one where the DeLorean time machine leaves a trail of flames as it goes Back To The Future.

There actually weren’t any scorch marks on the Ascot turf but his was by far the quickest victory of the week. It would be great see Nature Strip back in Britain at some point.

 

The Slowest

American trainer Wesley Ward knows what it takes to win at Royal Ascot.

After all, he headed into this year’s meeting with a dozen victories to his name. Frankie Dettori, Jamie Spencer and Ryan Moore, as well as US-based riders Joel Rosario, John Velazquez and Victor Espinoza, had all been in the saddle for previous glories.

This year, Irad Ortiz Jnr was trusted with the reins on Ward’s five runners. His big hope, Golden Pal, lined up as favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes but his challenge was over before it had started.

Ortiz claimed confusion over a withdrawn runner and lack of US-style starting bell caused him to think the opening of the stalls was far from imminent.

Whether that was the reason for Golden Pal falling out the stalls or not is another matter but it sort of summed up the week as Ward and Ortiz headed back home empty handed.

 

Perseverance

If at first you don’t succeed . . .

Reg Todd can complete that saying. Since he started in racing 63 years ago he’s been trying to lead a winner into the Royal Ascot winners’ enclosure.

After Wednesday’s Royal Hunt Cup the 76-year-old did just that. Dark Shift, trained by his boss Charlie Hills, made for the most heart-warming story of the week.

Reg, who has worked for the Hills family for 30 years, clearly thought it was worth the wait. Tremendous tale.

 

Unlucky but next time

With so many big-field handicaps, the fine line between glory and frustration would force a fag paper to think about dieting.

Virtually every race was littered with hard-luck stories. If I had to pick one to land a decent pot in the not-too-distant future it would be State Occasion.

She finished fourth in the Kensington Palace Stakes despite being stopped a crucial time. Her low draw did nothing for her chance, either.

The Cambridgeshire looks right up her street and, maybe, York’s John Smith’s Cup early next month might be an option as she is certainly worth another crack at 1m2f.