I laughed, I cried, I shouted and whooped and hollered.
The first day of the Royal Meeting lived up to its billing. The flying French grey streaked home. He has a glorious combination of sheer talent, phlegmatism and doughty determination. He walked round the paddock like a dear old show pony, gave a little ah here’s business plunging leap as his lad let him go, and then cantered down to the start as composed as an ambassador. When a fast-finishing horse came to his flank, he stuck his dear head out and found a little bit more. ‘He’s the boss,’ said his beaming jockey.
My sweet, steely Buratino lived up to his youthful promise. Everyone was talking about the Irish horses, but Buratino has drunk deep at the Yorkshire water, which has flint and granite in it. His trainer, a charming, smiling Scot also has a streak of flint in him, and his string is famously tough as teak. He likes them out on the racecourse, doing their job, and they try and try for him. Buratino flew past the best two-year-olds in the world as if they weren’t there, with a poised William Buick on top, using on his hands and heels. I shouted with delighted laughter.
Gleneagles put his doubters to bed with a nice show of class. He only does what he has to do, but he does it in imperious fashion. He has said This is Mine to seven of his last eight races, and he knows where the winning line is. He’s got a streaking, raking stride, the stride of a pure aristocrat, but he can dig deep when he has to. Thoroughbreds have moods and mysteries, just as humans do. There are days when they don’t run their race. ‘No excuses,’ say the connections, smiling philosophically. This kind of consistency at the top level is not only a huge tribute to the horse, but to the entire team around him.
The old standing dish Sole Power was not quite quick enough on the day, and finished an undisgraced fifth, as Goldream and the dear old Medicean Man, fierce as a tiger at the age of nine, fought out a thrilling finish. I got the stayers’ race all wrong, but was never so glad to lose my money, as the mighty Ryan Moore guided Clondaw Warrior from last to first and blinded the crowd with his biggest smile of the day. Willie Mullins, that cool magician, put away his winter green for a shiny black top hat, and looked as pleased as if he’d just won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Ruby Walsh, whose wife part-owns the good galloping fella, was dancing about in the winner’s enclosure making jokes about the Galway Hurdle, looking as happy as I’ve ever seen him.
And in the last, Washington DC came home for my money, putting the Royal Seal of Approval on Aidan O’Brien’s glittering day.
And talking of royal seals, The Queen looked as delighted as a girl as she observed the feast of equine beauty. She knows more about bloodlines than almost anyone, and has been known to leave experts floundering in her wake. She’s been trotting up the course behind her match greys since before most of the jockeys riding today were born, and you would have thought she had seen everything, but the smile on her face suggests that this fine festival never gets old for her.
Today, one of my favourite fillies, Integral will be the beat of my heart. She’s five now, so she’s really a mare, but she’s a light, delicate creature, and she still looks like a filly to me. She may have the looks of a princess, but she does not shy away from a fight, and I’ll be roaring her on. I’d love the big, bonny Ivawood to win the first, and I’ve got a sneaking feeling for the bold William Haggas filly in the Queen Mary. I can’t work out the Prince of Wales at all. The dark horse, Free Eagle, might show all his brilliance, but I can’t ever quite let go of my love for The Grey Gatsby, who has not been at his crest and peak this season, but could bounce back. I’d love to see Frankie do his flying dismount after the Royal Hunt Cup, and I hope Always Smile will put a smile on my face in the last.
More hopes and dreams; more flying finishes; more of those beautiful, brave thoroughbreds dazzling on the emerald turf. What a week.
Meanwhile, someone is dozing in her quiet field: