Jun 30, 2008


Royal Ascot races last week evoked memories of our visit a decade ago. Chief among them was the smashing victory by Dubai Millenium in the G 1 Prince of Wales stakes.
The betting opened on the Darley at 4-6 early in the week but the herd mentality of many racegoers took a turn that was almost comical in its stupidity. By post time the wagering had taken a huge shift with the Aga Khan’s Sinndar moved into favoritism in the four horse field, with Dubai Millenium downgraded to 6-4 second choice.

The reason? Jerry Bailey had been named to ride Dubai Millenium and thousands of punters, swayed by the racing press, got the curious impression that presence of the American champion was somehow less than a good thing.

Bailey put the brilliant son of Seeking The Gold on an easy lead almost from the start and came home as if out for a canter in Hyde Park.

One sensed that he was in the presence of greatness in Dubai Millenium. His early demise was a heartbreaking loss for the Maktoum family.

Also memorable that week was our chat up with the Queen Mother who was celebrating her 99th birthday if I recall. A member of our party asked a Lady In Waiting if we could speak with the Queen Mother as she entered the walking ring. I was sure that security would round us up but, lo and behold, the Queen Mum tooled over in her golf cart and granted an audience that must have lasted l0 minutes. She chatted about her trips to Woodbine and touted us on the winner of the next race.

My English friends doubt the veracity of my tale but there were witnesses.

The trip ended on a more somber note. We had been cashing bets all week and there was no more room left in my pants pockets to put the Dubai Millenium loot. So I began to deposit pounds in the jacket of my morning suit.

That suit was returned to its Bond Street rental office at 7 a.m. on our way to Gatwick and a flight home. A champagne hangover led to fuzzy thinking and we were already at Gatwick when I noticed that some 2000 pounds was missing.

I called the rental company at once, explaining that I had left some of my profits in the jacket of the suit. “Backed some winners, did you,” he said, sounding like Col. Pickering to my Henry Higgins. “You’d be one of the few.”

Right then I knew I could kiss my bankroll goodbye. All the way home I felt like a “bloomin’ arse”.