The Daily Telegraph
Real cheers, fashion and singalongs at the bandstand – I can’t wait
• Meeting promises to be near ‘normal’, which means it will be a delight to present a broadcasting marathon
After sporting famine comes a feast: Royal Ascot and Euro 2020. Our week’s crescendo will be Frankie Dettori and Stradivarius going for a fourth Gold Cup on Thursday, and it will be a treat to be at Ascot among a crowd of 12,000.
This time last year, the place was desolate: the meeting was our first outside broadcast in the initial lockdown and a monster challenge for a skeleton production team, with no racegoers, members of the Royal family or atmosphere to feed off.
This week promises to be different and almost “normal”. Our job on ITV will be to entertain and bring the return of Ascot fun, fashion and buzz to your living room. All 35 races are live on ITV, culminating each evening with the return of the singalong at the bandstand. A broadcasting marathon. Have a few quid on When The Saints Go Marching In being the first song tonight.
For the first time in a long time, I am excited to be presenting a race meeting, and I cannot wait to hear real cheers in Ascot’s hallowed winner’s enclosure. The action promises to be spectacular and finding those winners will be a big challenge. So, here goes: tin hat (and top hat) on.
Today The barrage of Group Ones on the opening day takes some beating. Palace Pier is impossible to oppose in the Queen Anne (2.30). He is the best in Europe. Battaash has been the fastest in the world and box office for us on ITV, but he is opposable this year after a difficult preparation and up against some brilliant Northern ladies headed by Winter Power (3.40). The St James’s Palace (4.20) looks a minefield, while the best bet of the day, Patrick Sarsfield, runs in the Wolferton (5.35).
Tomorrow I would love music super-agent Emma Banks to win the Duke of Cambridge (3.40) with Lady Bowthorpe. Emma’s enthusiasm for the game is infectious.i sang a duet from The Greatest Showman recently with Johnny Murtagh, who fancies himself an Irish Hugh Jackman, and he thinks Champers Elysees will go close.
All we need is Love to win on her return in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (4.20), but it will be tough for her to beat stablemate Armory.
I have been “styled” for the week by William Haggas’s step-brother at Brook Taverner and, while my collar size was being measured, it became clear that Irish Admiral is fancied to run a big race in the Hunt Cup (5.00). I will throw two darts at this, as Astro King really caught my eye at Thirsk last time.
Thursday Day three is all about Stradivarius’s bid for racing immortality by matching Yeats with a fourth Gold Cup (4.15) win. He is a lairy so-and-so and the Gosden team have worked miracles keeping him at the top of his game for so long. That is akin to keeping George Best’s eyes solely on football for a generation. My nap of the week runs in the King George V (5.35). James Ferguson is my tip to reach the top of the training tree and looks to have lined up Francesco Guardi for a tilt at this – 33-1 is a huge each-way price.
Friday Day four is a belter, with the Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes. Both look trappy. I asked Oisin Murphy for his best ride of the week and he told me to look out for Sunstrike if she runs in the Albany.
Saturday I chatted to Ed Walker for the ITV Racing Podcast on Saturday night and he could be in for a big final day. Starman can be his star turn in the Diamond Jubilee (4.20). This column tipped Hey Jonesy to win the Wokingham (5.00) at 33-1 last year. Walker had a reassuringly wry smile when I said I wanted to tip his Great Ambassador this time.
All week, we will be bringing Bridgerton to Berkshire with our own version of the Netflix costume drama’s gossip columnist Lady Whistledown. “Lady Swinley” will have all the tittle-tattle from on the track and off it and, rumour has it, one of the ITV Racing team may be behind it all.
Francesco Guardi looks to have been lined up for a tilt at this – 33-1 is a huge each-way price