Golden weather, great racing, some fine gestures, Christmas crackers of the best kind, Macca waxing eloquent in the best traditions of Boyd QC and Rumpole of the Bailey and some dark horses emerging in the TVH Sartorial were just some of the features of December 8 at Ascot.
First the horses: Well the local hero Luckygray deserved top billing but what a supporting cast particularly from the two girls – Power Princess and Mabel Grace.
The Kingston Town this year excited the racing aficionados.
There were many questions to be answered. Could ‘Bradley’ (Luckygray) run the 1800 journey of the KT as he had done over the 1400-1600m distances? Could Neville Parnham make history and chalk up a third successive win in this race with Playing God? Would Pop Culture continue to make a good fist of her lead-up races to her main mission the Perth Cup?
To those questions above the answers were yes, no and yes respectively.
Bradley’s win was hugely popular with the crowd, and the press contingent (yes I am a big fan and make no apologies for it).
There are a number of reasons for this. First the grey galloper is a genuine excitement machine who usually comes sweeping around the field from the rear, descending on his opponents like his equine cousins of the Light Horse did to the Turks in the great charge at Beersheba on October 31, 1917.
More often than not he is just as successful as them, routing his foes with a sustained charge.
Perhaps Shaun O’Donnell should wear an emu plume in his cap. He can borrow one from Mrs van Heemst who has feathered millinery of the highest quality.
(Talking of that Great War period I am looking forward to reading, Bill the Bastard over Christmas. No, I am not insulting my friend and colleague from the press box, Bill Bovington, but rather referring to our great warhorse of that WW1 period).
Anyway, on this occasion from barrier four, ‘Braddles’ jumped nicely and took a midfield position rather than his usual rearwards position. O’Donnell later said he “switched off beautifully” after establishing his position until being asked for an effort before the home turn.
Instead of having to come around the entire field as he did in the Railway, after drawing wide, in the KT it was obvious he was poised beautifully to strike after being in close order turning for home.
Certainly Mr Moet was not going to come from behind and beat him and so the pair reversed their Railway Stakes roles of this year.
It was an elated O’Donnell after the last who spoke of the thrill of being first across the line in a Group 1 on his favourite mount. His 2011 Railway win had come after a protest had been upheld.
God Has Spoken was next best with Pop Culture giving a good Perth Cup performance in fourth position.
Maybe it is time for her owner, Big Russ, (Clarke) to start ordering some red and blue ties and follow the lead of Team Luckygray who have ties and caps made in their white and blue colours.
In fact part-owner Barry Mitchell presented me with a LG tie after the first –nice gesture, number one.
Speaking about strong performances, Macca (race caller Darren McAullay) swooped in from the Eagles Nest, after the second race which saw Adam Durrant’s Beach Express (Ben Paterson) first across the line in a squeaker from Excelorada (Steven Parnham).
However, Parnham fired in a protest for interference at the 700m mark and this generated a deal of interest in the press box. Jay Rooney found the Stewards Room channel on our TV and so proceedings were watched with interest.
But just before the stewards assembled Macca gave one of the most eloquent addresses to the members of the fourth estate assembled as to why the protest would be upheld.
So help me it was the best I have heard since Boyd QC (remember him) and Rumpole of the Bailey hung up their wigs after winning thousands of TV cases.
I don’t know whether Macca briefed Neville Parnham before the trainer went in but the trainer gave the reasons that GT (Golden Tonsils QC) said he would.
The two Parnhams argued that that their horse had been impacted on by Beach Express who had moved inwards and ultimately taking the line of Excelorada who was eased back from the one out lane rather than into the vacant hole on the rails.
The Parnhams argued that you should not have to forfeit your place in the line simply to accommodate someone else who wants to get in.
The stewards, after deliberating, concurred as the margin had only been a short head and obviously by taking over the line of Excelorada that horse lost more than that and had to come around Beach Express rather than hold that horse out three from the rails as initially was the case.
I ended up wanting the stewards to take action against Macca. After convincing me that it was going to be upheld he then ‘failed to hold his line’ and said that he thought it was a 55-45% chance of the results staying the same!
It was at the conclusion of that race that fine gesture number two took place.
The beaten trainer Adam Durrant offered his hand to both Parnhams after receiving the verdict from Chief Stipe, Brad Lewis.
Durrant has had his share of critics, some severe and some mild, (like this writer), over his sometimes uneven comments and public relations. This was a nice touch.
Further, that trainer received a bouquet from a reader who emailed me saying that he appreciated Durrant, with three horses engaged in the KT, taking time to go over and pat the Clerk of the Course’s horse.
It is interesting how small points and simple acts are noticed on a racecourse over a day, but then a premiership trainer is always going to catch public attention.
Durrant in fact had a mixed day (see hoofnote at end) with Beach Express (ultimately), and Mr Moet both running seconds. But just as there is no show without Punch so you would expect the Lark Hill trainer to salvage something out of the meeting.
He did and it was a good plum too – the Jungle Dawn Classic – with evergreen mare Mabel Grace, who Bill Bovington thought was a good thing, despite her 60kg weight.
So did Peter Hall who told owner David Elsegood after her last start sixth that she would win this race.
It was a great race to watch from the stands. With Hall riding like a man possessed he pushed the mare through along the rails to just wear down Miss Vinnoire, ridden by visiting star hoop Glen Boss, to nail that galloper on the line in a head bobber.
Hall who has recently come back from a ‘stewards holiday’ was looking in pretty good after the last, in his tailored suit. He is a definite future winner of the TVH Sartorial Stakes.
With my Sunday Times colleague Julio Santarelli doing the Power Princess win in the Scahill Stakes for the paper I was co-opted, on a busy day for the Perth Racing media team, to do the same race for the PR website.
Until recently Santa used to hang out in their downstairs lounge at the end of the grandstand. In the last month he has discovered the delights of mountain top living in the press box.
As I sauntered down to see PR Racing Manager Marty Young I thought all my Christmases had come at once.
There limbering up, just outside the PR media lounge, were close to a dozen delightful nymphs scantily dressed as Santa’s helpers, complete with red suits but with minis instead of trousers.
As someone who loves Xmas crackers I thought I had discovered the best Yuletide crackers of all!
Of course I quickly released that they were Santa’s helpers (sly dog Julio, he has obviously been hoarding this lot to himself) so I informed them that Santa had moved upstairs but that I was his helper, elfgood, and could look after all their needs.
Apparently they didn’t have any. Pity. (Obviously I am not the ‘full package’ but I now know why he calls his column ‘What Santa Saw’. Too much, for too long if you ask me).
Anyway the girls informed me they were going to dance but I never discovered where. But I have ordered these Crackers for Xmas.
I had to take the escalators back to the members deck after doing the story as parts of my anatomy had become strained and gone stiff….as eyes do when you use them too much and legs when you sit for too long.
Fortunately, my circulation had improved by race six and I was able to concentrate on Bradley’s performance in the KT.
As for the TVH, I gave it to Macca with his pale grey suit simply because shades of grey were the order of the day. GT was in touch with his feminine side too by wearing a pink tie.
Honourable mentions went to Peter Gangemi, Jay Rooney, Peter Hall and Jamie’Mabel’ Chadwick (like Mabel Grace always in it).
As for the best shirt and tie I was unanimous in awarding it to myself (look, if you don’t like the judge’s decision find another website). Both were in the winning colours of white and blue.
Shaun O’Donnell concurred. “Nice tie” were his first words to me after the last race.
It certainly is but not as fine as his ride in the Kingston Town.
Photographer Scott Hollands obviously thought so too as he presented the jockey with a huge photo of Luckygray in action, the third nice gesture, by an individual, on the day.
Apparently a few people wanted to buy it but Scott presented it to Donga.
Three wise men bearing gifts or showing goodwill ….now that is the Spirit of Christmas.
Hoofnote: Stewards will further look at race day medications to KT contestants Chester Road (eighth) and Maschino (10th).
There were no prohibited substances in the medications of the duo but under the rules of racing applications are not supposed to be administered on race days.
Using their discretionary powers stipendiary stewards allowed both horses to start.
Trainers Adam Durrant (Chester Road) and Graham Yuill (Maschino) will face future inquiries at a date to be determined.
Chester Road was given anti-ulcer treatment and Maschino a combination of minerals and vitamins.
Stewards will also continue their inquiries into the interference that led to a successful protest in race two by Steven Parnham.