Royal Ascot, The future?

To say that Royal Ascot 2020 was different is a bit of an understatement to say the least!

No crowds, No Royal Procession, No fashion, No celebrity spotting in the hospitality areas and even more so No betting on what colour hat Her Majesty will have on!

The meeting last summer came three weeks into a very truncated 2020 turf flat season and to begin with the whole event had a totally different look compared to normal, The first two Classics had been run first and the Royal meeting had taken place in its original and intended date, just two weeks later we had the Oaks and Derby both on the same day but on the first Saturday in July with the Eclipse at Sandown the day after and despite some big races which had fallen by the wayside it looked that the season would be back on its proper tracks to the end which thankfully it was.

As for Royal Ascot well what can i say?

In all honesty despite the huge alterations to the meeting i loved every minute of it, we all know it had a different feel and if anything felt more like a “proper” race meeting as opposed to how it actually is in a conventional year.

For once the stripped back nature of the meeting actually made the racing feel like the main focal point as sometimes it can often get ignored for things like fashion,food and celebrities as can often happen for a meeting of this nature but this one was 100% pure horse racing.

And what racing we had bestowed upon us, from the brilliant Battaash on opening day to Hello Youmzain on the Saturday with Stradivarius getting his third Gold Cup on Thursday with many other things of note such as a 150-1 winner of the Coventry Stakes, Hollie Doyle breaking her Royal Ascot maiden tag in what became her most successful season to date and of course we can’t and indeed dare not mention The Queen also adding to her Royal tally.

ITV to their credit kept the show on the road with presenters, pundits and commentators all socially distanced to keep the outdoor broadcast within the rules which felt far better than the earlier shows which meant seeing Ed Chamberlin in his box room at home, a few elements came in for criticism such as during the week when chef James Martin showed us how to make a Scotch Egg, that recieved plenty of unwarranted abuse on social media but you have to accept that when you are showcasing your sport to the nation you have to have other things to keep the audience switched on.

Keeping a home audience entertained especially in these testing times for about four hours or so for five consecutive days is no mean feat and while you must always make sure the owners who couldn’t get on the track this year were included with the use of Zoom (I’m sure Ed must have had a bet on how many times he can say it in every show!) you have to make sure it’s an all inclusive broadcast so non racing people feel much a part of it too.

One thing that did make me pause for thought at one point during the week and it is a bit of a morbid one but here goes.

What will the future hold for the Royal meeting?

The Queen who like the rest of us had to settle down in front of the telly, is going to be 95 years old in April and sadly she will not be around forever although her late mother kept going till 101 so like Stradivarius she has plenty of staying power but at some point we will have to say goodbye to her in the saddest of circumstances.

Prince Charles who is 71 and serving the worlds longest apprenticeship will become King, now Charles has attended many race meetings as an owner, very briefly as a jockey and been in the Royal Procession many times over so when time comes he will be the main person in the first carriage when he becomes King.

However when Charles himself makes good his departure from this planet we then hit a tricky spot so to speak.

Prince William who is next in line is more known for his love of ball related sports being President of the FA and the Vice Royal Patron of the Welsh RU, although he has attended Royal Ascot on the occasional works outing with Kate in the Royal Procession and plays Polo, he doesn’t seem to have the same interest in racing as the Queen so that could pose a few questions over the next few years.

Royal Ascot is famous not just for some of the worlds finest bloodstock galloping up its famous green sward but also for the pomp and ceremony that draws in non horse racing fans too and if the next two in line to the throne aren’t really interested then their is every chance the summer sporting spectacle that is the Royal Ascot could end up being repackaged into something totally new for the years to come.

For all of us this is all we’ve ever known of this meeting, whatever the weather is, come 2pm each day the Golden Gates at the top of the Hunt Cup Course are opened and the Royal Procession enters with those beautiful Windsor Greys at the head of affairs bringing the party down then at the 1f pole it’s Hats Off as “God Save The Queen” gets played by the band and sang aloud from the stands by the most patriotic crowd in sport

Hopefully all this will still happen post C-19 and in the years to come but we must always keep an eye on the future as we also keep an eye on the present.