A week is a long time in horse racing and while other better writers and pundits have penned more eloquent tributes to Sir Henry Cecil than I could ever manage, I was deeply saddened by the maestro’s passing.
I grew up watching ‘Henry’ win all the big races, including the English Derby four times, and when I first started going racing seriously, I found it amazing to be walking past or being anywhere near the legendary trainer.
It’s a shame that he won’t be at Royal Ascot this week to saddle an amazing 76th winner at the Royal extravaganza.
Death makes our game appear trivial but the big news in the sport was that Jim Bolger has done another u-turn and by the time you read this, Derby flop Dawn Approach will have attempted to restore his reputation in the St James’s Palace Stakes. I hope he has because he could be the real headline act this season.
Friday’s Coronation Stakes at Ascot has turned into a cracker jack renewal with English Guineas heroine Sky Lantern having a rematch against the Newmarket runner-up and subsequent Irish Guineas winner Just The Judge.
The connections of the latter were adamant that their filly was unlucky at Newmarket when she went down by half a length and the next time that the two met, you would see a different outcome.
Our odds compilers agree with them, also thinking that Just The Judge improved from that run to land the Irish equivalent, and currently make her 5-2 favourite, while Sky Lantern is available at 7-2.
However, I’m not so sure that the Newmarket placings will be reversed and while it’s just a hunch and I can’t really provide any evidence, I always think that when you get connections saying why their horse was unlucky and that they’ll beat the other one next time, invariably it doesn’t happen.
I’m hoping that the rain stays away for Sky Lantern as I don’t think she’d really want a cut in the ground, but apparently she’s a stronger filly now than the one that won at Newmarket and she’ll do for me.
I’ve already tipped Duke Of Firenze in Saturday’s Wokingham Stakes and on the same day I like the chances of Mince in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
This Medicean filly won five times last year and for my money was the best three-year-old sprinter with her optimum performance coming when landing the Group 3 Bengough Stakes over course and distance in October.
Her wily handler Roger Charlton was almost in tears when she got beaten on her last start in a Listed race at Windsor earlier in the month, but his disappointment was abated somewhat as she appeared to be having a good old blow afterwards and she will strip a lot fitter this time.
This is obviously a big step up in class but Charlton is one of those handlers who doesn’t big-up his animals unless they are very good indeed and I think she goes into an open looking contest with a fighting chance.
Royal Ascot and Wimbledon make this a brilliant time of year and the latter begins on Monday and I can’t desert my old friend Rafael Nadal at 7-2.
I know he’s the ‘King of Clay’ and Wimbledon is obviously a very different kettle of fish but he’s not too shabby on grass as he proved when winning this prestigious tournament in 2008 and 2010 and finishing runner-up to favourite Novak Djokovic in 2011.
Admittedly the Serbian did beat him fairly comfortably but there’s not a lot between the two racketeers as the French Open semi-final proved recently and given my fancy was coming back from injury, maybe he just has the edge.
Friday Royal Ascot 3.45pm Sky Lantern
Saturday Royal Ascot 3.45pm Mince
Monday Wimbledon Rafael Nadal to win mens singles