TODAY is my favourite day of the year.
The Tuesday of Royal Ascot — the start of the world’s greatest race meeting with so much to look forward to across the next five days.
I’ve been blessed to have travelled the globe riding horses at the biggest meetings on the planet but I can tell you, NOTHING even comes close to Royal Ascot.
And what’s more the sun is out and the forecast is for the weather to get hotter and hotter as the week goes on. Just the way I like it!
It’s going to be scorching on the track and sizzling off it.
This year’s meeting is even more special and historic than ever as it is the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden some lovely horses for Her Majesty and it would be brilliant to win one for the Queen this week.
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If I could ride two winners this week it would be on Thursday — Reach For The Moon for Her Majesty and, of course, super stayer
Stradivarius in the Gold Cup for my good friend Bjorn Nielsen. That would be some double, wouldn’t it?
I’ve been riding at this meeting now for 35 years — plenty of the boys I am up against in the saddle this week weren’t even born when I had my first ride.
That’s scary stuff but I honestly feel I am getting younger! At least that’s what I tell myself when I look in the mirror each morning!
My first ride at the meeting was on a horse called Come On The Blues for the great Clive Brittain.
It was the 1987 Hunt Cup and I was 17. In those days I was a bit lighter — and that’s just as well as I had to 7st 7lb. I ride at a stone more than that these days! We finished out the back but it was still a memorable day.
My first big win — and the day I’ll still hold as my greatest ever day at the meeting — would be the 1990 Queen Anne on Markofdistinction.
I’ve had a lot of great days in the 32 years since that but it was a huge race to win and wonderful to win for Luca Cumani who helped me so much in my career.
Without Mr Cumani — as I have always called him — I wouldn’t have had half the career I have.
He always said that when I came to England I couldn’t speak a word of English — and he said I could hardly speak much Italian either!
Today is going to be a tough one for me to ride a winner.
With three Group 1s this afternoon there are some amazing horses on the track — Baaeed, Coroebus, Golden Pal, Nature Strip — and I wish their jockeys well. They are in for a treat.
I do have some nice chances today though. I kick off with AGE OF KINGS (3.05) for Aidan O’Brien in the Coventry.
Ryan Moore has had the pick of them and has chosen to ride Blackbeard who was very impressive for him in the Marble Hill when making all at the Curragh a few weeks back.
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But as we have seen down through the years you can’t write off Aidan’s second or third strings.
I’ve watched the replays back and I thought Age Of Kings won well second time out. He made all and won by four lengths for Ryan, also at the Curragh, at the start of the month and he looked a nice sort.
It looks an even hotter race than normal and I know Richard Hannon is very bullish about Persian Force.
And I have heard plenty of good things about Royal Scotsman.
I haven’t got a ride in the King’s Stand but for once I will be able to sit back and just enjoy it.
You wouldn’t want to call it between the two market leaders Nature Strip and Golden Pal.
Both camps have come out with lots of good stuff in the run-up to the race and I just wonder if the fast ground may tip the balance in favour of Golden Pal.
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The Queen’s runner King’s Lynn could run into a place and Ryan has a nice looking ride on Henry Cand’s Twilight Calls who will be a threat,
Coroebus will be very hard to beat in the St James’s Palace Stakes, but we’ll give it a good go with MIGHTY ULYSSES (4.20).
I’m drawn out wide which isn’t ideal and we’ve got a fair bit to find with the favourite, but my horse is still improving and I think we’ve got a solid place chance if everything falls right.
I’ve got a good Plan for the Ascot Stakes — MARSHALL PLAN (5.00) to be exact.
Marshall Plan ran a nice race over two miles at Newcastle last time.
He travels well, which makes my life a bit easier for me over this marathon distance, but once we’ve gone beyond the two miles we really don’t know.
HARROVIAN (5.35) is my ride in the Wolferton Stakes. He is a real tough fella and has been set some tough tasks. He ran a decent race in Saudi to finish fourth and we’ve pulled a nice draw here in stall four.
This is tough, it’s a super competitive Listed race but we should be there or thereabouts. Juan Elcano and Cadillac have both been well touted so they are dangers.
Lastly, I ride STOWELL (6.10) in the Copper Horse Handicap and it’s another really hard one to call. These handicaps at Ascot are so competitive everyone lining up will feel they’ve got a chance.
We know he likes the track as he put in a career-best performance when third in Queen’s Vase last year, so that’s a positive. Win, lose or draw today — I just can’t wait.
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