Whoever said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing must have been a gambling man.
I was once pretty good at picking a winner and rarely left a course out of pocket. No science or insider knowledge was involved; I simply looked for a name that had some relevance to my life at the time. These days things are rather different; I study the form closely and then invariably pick the wrong horse and go home with empty pockets.
Take today’s big race at Royal Ascot, The Golden Jubilee Stakes, as a prime example. Early rain gave us better going than on Friday — good to firm, firm in places — which suited the winner Kingsgate Native, having his second win of the week and coming in at odds of 33-1.
Kingsgate Native’s handler, John Best, is based in Maidstone (not far from where I live), the owners also own Cheveley Park Stud (one of my best friends lives practically next door) and the jockey Jimmy Quinn was in the plate for his win earlier in the week (my horse is called Quinn). Once all that would have been too much for me and I would have put £10 on the nose. But today I read the papers, thought long and hard about my choice and went for the Group One winner, War Artist, who came in second and no, I didn’t back him each way.
Before travelling to Ascot today for my first Royal Enclosure experience, H&H racing editor, Catherine Austen told me: “Once you’ve been in the Royal Enclosure you’ll never look back.” And she was right. The view from the fourth floor of the grandstand, the fascinating characters I met and the short queues for the loo contributed to a day that’s definitely going to become a regular fixture in my diary.
And by the end of the day I was finally starting to find my form. For the final two-mile race, The Queen Alexandra Stakes, I backed Honolulu to win and Distinction each way. Eureka! The two horses battled it out to the finish, with Honolulu just getting ahead, providing an exciting finish to what had been an excellent day. Suffice to say that after a couple of pricey glasses of champagne and a good lunch, I didn’t exactly put my shirt on it, but that winning feeling was enough to ensure that I’ll be back again next year.