A Letter from Ascot: Up the Stretch Awards

Sunday, June 23, 2019 at 1:57 pm |

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Blue Point | Racing Post photo

By Dave Johnson

Originally these “Tip of the Top Hat” awards after the five-day Royal Meeting at Ascot, were entitled DOWN THE STRETCH AWARDS. But since the Ascot homestretch is uphill, I have renamed these presentations as the UP THE STRETCH AWARDS…also known as the “Stretchies.”

WALL HORSE AWARD to Nagano Gold (GB) (Sixties Icon {GB}), who might have won the G2 Hawdwicke S. because he was bothered twice by Masar (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) Saturday.

When I was calling races at Fairmount Park and Cahokia Downs way back in the last century, when I would see a horse in real trouble, I would immediately scribble the name on the wall as soon as I shut off the microphone. Yes, the wall was a mess at the end of a season, but I think it showed a profit of horses to watch next time out. Nagano Gold would have been on that wall. He was cut off at the start, lost several lengths, and forced to race far behind in the early going of the mile and a half trip. Then, starting his bid, he was sawed off again by the same horse who bothered him at the start, Masar!  The “wall horse” miraculously finished second the Defoe (Ire) (Dalakhani {Ire}) in a brave performance helped by a forced, but magnificent, stop-and-go and stop-and-go ride by Christophe Soumillion.  A “wall horse” indeed.

THE WIG AWARD. Not one wag in the press box can remember when it started, so that means it was a long long time ago. Certainly before the present monarch. There are 10 ladies and gentlemen, all dressed alike, who actually ride many of the horses in the Royal Procession each day. For some crazy reason, each of these equestrians wear black riding caps, with a blonde wig sewn into the helmet, making it look like all of the riders are blonde and curly, too! I guess it is to give more attention to the folks in the carriages, but it seems a bit foolish in 2019. Then again, it is a part of the show of the unforgetable five-day fantasy and reality of Royal Ascot.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A HORSE goes to Godolphin’s Blue Point (Ire) (Shamardal) who won both the G1 King’s Stand S. and the G1 Diamond Jubilee S. in the space of four days! You won’t see anything like that happen in the colonies.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A TRAINER to the conditioner of the above dual Group 1 performer, plus many other stars. Charlie Appleby, who has climbed the ladder at Godolphin from groom, to traveling lad, to assistant trainer, to trainer. He has won multiple graded events all over the world, including three Breeders’ Cup races over the past two years. Bravo!

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A JOCKEY is easy. The most recognizable jockey in England, and perhaps one of the greatest to every ride, Frankie Dettori. At age 48, he replaced Ryan Moore as the top jockey at the meet (it used to be called the Ritz Club Trophy) for 2019. Well done, Frankie. Please stay healthy and come back next year.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE AWARD goes to the excellent Frankie Dettori. He is famous here for his “flying dismount” from the saddle following an important stakes victory. But Frankie is the first to admit that he copied his now-famous trademark from Angel Cordero, Jr. Dettori picked it up when he came to ride in the United States about 1980, whilst Cordero was doing that same bit of showmanship at NYRA tracks years before that time.

DAD OF THE WEEK following Father’s Day was Shamardal (Giant’s Causway) who, at age 17, made a great impact on the meeting and this country as the sire of many important winners.

LUNCH OF THE WEEK in the press box. Spicy Orzo, with red peppers. Who would have thought something so simple was so tasty?

ROOKIE AWARD to David Egan, who turned 20 years old Tuesday, won the G3 Albany S. on Daahyeh (GB) (Bated Breath {GB}) while his father, John, was riding at Newmarket. He is the nephew of outstanding rider, Richard Hughes. David won the 2017 Apprentice title here in England, and now has a Royal Ascot winner.

THE ME TOO AWARD to underappreciated Haley Turner, who became only the second woman ever to ride a winner at The Royal meeting when she piloted longshot Thanks Be (GB) (Mukhadram {GB}) to capture The Sandringham S. (Handicap) Friday.

THE JOHN HENRY AWARD (for old timers) goes again to the 93-year-old monarch of England and #1 Ascot racegoer since 1945. Every racing day she is there. With a nod to the great Tom Durkin, she is “the incomparable, invincible, unbeatable, Queen Elizabeth II.”

Congratulations to the 2019 “Stretchie” winners.

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