The first day of Royal Ascot is always the best.
Walking through the gates to the racecourse, it all feels mint-fresh, shiny, squeaky-clean. The track is a perfect, virgin sward. Everyone is beaming, and wearing their favourite outfit of the ones selected for the week.
No one’s feet are yet sore beyond endurance. No one has yet failed to train or ride a winner. No horse has yet disappointed the collective expectations lumped up on it. No one has lost a fortune. No one has had a drunken row with their wife/husband/offspring.
This year, the first half an hour of the party was the best. After Frankel flashed past the post in a scintillating demonstration of his superiority, everything that followed was inevitably tamer. Not a let-down – a card that bangs in three Group Ones and the most significant two-year-old race of the season so far in quick succession could never be that – but less taxing on the heart-rate.
The greatest race-meeting in the world (yes, this may be H&H heresy but it’s better than Cheltenham – less call for thermal underwear) is shaped like a wave this year. The two peaks are Frankel on Tuesday and the mighty Black Caviar on the final day, Saturday.
The wonder from down under will have to go some to equal Frankel’s stunning effort – not that it appeared effortful at all. Will we ever see him stretched the max in a duel?
Black Caviar should be able to beat the opposition with just as much ease. Any prospect of a match between these two horses, rated the best in the world, has vanished, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Yes, the point of horseracing is to find “the best”, but when two horses are so utterly different and would have to step so far out of their comfort zone to do battle, it seems better to celebrate the two champions without quibbling. How very lucky we are to have them at all, let alone racing in the same week at the same racecourse.
Black Caviar is a national heroine at home in Australia, feted like the top athlete she is. The coverage of Frankel’s Ascot performance unsurprisingly was drowned in the ocean that is the press’s obsession with our mediocre football team. Frankel does not dive, choke or “enhance” his performance with dubious substances. He is the supreme British athlete, and should be honoured as such.