No face is as synonymous with Ascot Racecourse as our ambassador, Frankie Dettori. Sure, Queen Elizabeth II could stake a claim. As, indeed, could her predecessors and successor. But nothing moulds smiles like a flying dismount in Ascot's winner's enclosure. It was here, in September 1996, Frankie swept through each race on the card: an event that would become known as his 'Magnificent Seven'. And, from Markofdistinction to Stradivarious, Royal Ascot, too, has served as his playground for well over thirty years. So it is, there's a strange feeling, arriving this year at a venue that hosts his royal meeting swansong.
Crowds, no doubt, have come in part to bear witness to that farewell. Frankie, no doubt, will play back to them. Because, for all the royal meeting will roll on next year (it has done for over two hundred years, most of them without Frankie), there'll be adjustments needed on our return, and the mental preparations are only beginning to sink in. Gone: our ever-enthusiastic, often erratic, always professional pin-point. Just, indeed, as our late queen has gone this year. Welcomed instead this year, our host, HM The King. Nowhere, though, does continuity like Royal Ascot.
There are three Group Ones on Day One, as we gather at the crucible of British racing. Just as four days of the Cheltenham Festival serve as the pinnacle of jump racing, Royal Ascot is flat racing's steadfast five-day pinnacle, scrutinised and enjoyed by racing fans and fashionistas the world over. With its daily royal procession, and a dress code all but unaltered in its near 300-year history, the royal meeting began in 1768. Ascot Racecourse, however, is older, and was established by Queen Anne in 1711. It remains crown land. And, talking of Queen Anne, she lends her name to the first race of the week. At 2:30pm, will last year's French Guineas winner Modern Games (a recent Lockinge victor) be getting another nibble from sore loser Chindit?
Manaccan takes on Highfield Princess in the King's Stand at 3:40pm. That's one race before the return of this year's Guineas winner, Chaldean, who has our ambassador aboard in the St James's Palace. Under the hands of Ryan Moore, Irish 2000 Guineas winner Paddington is the one to beat here. But don't rule out Craven-winning duo Indestructible and Kevin Stott, nor last year's Richmond winner Royal Scotsman: he was only denied the Dewhurst by a neck, and held on for third in the Newmarket Guineas. Note that Jamie Spencer takes the ride today, rather than our other ambassador, Jim Crowley.
Frankie's Mounts Today
Chaldean is our ambassador's big ride today, running in the St James's Palace. Elsewhere, Frankie will be getting the leg up on Manaccan in the King's Stand, royal runner Saga in the Wolferton, and on Jessie Harrington's Givemethebeatboys in the Coventry at 3:05pm. Frankie also has a ride for Willie Mullins (yes, you read that right!), on Absurde in the Copper Horse Handicap at 6:10pm. I know it sounds absurd.
Who, though, could forget his other big hope: Inspiral, in the colours of Cheveley Park? She performs in our opener, a year after taking the Coronation at Royal Ascot 2022. That was before victory in the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville. Inspiral was beaten to sixth by Bayside Boy on her last appearance (the Queen Elizabeth II) in October, and this will be her first run in 2023.
-> Don't forget to tag us and Frankie in photos of you waving goodbye to our ambassador on his farewell tour, including #RacingBreaks. Best waves will receive free tickets to Terrace Club hospitality at Royal Ascot in 2024!