TEMPUS FUGIT — or, in other words, time flies.
I just can’t believe it has been 30 years since I rode my first Royal Ascot winner!
Markofdistinction, for the great Luca Cumani, was the horse in the Queen Anne.
I was just out of short trousers at the time — as I was only 19 years old.
I have looked at the video of the race a few times since then and, thankfully, I’d like to think my riding is a bit more stylish these days!
We had a dream run up the rail and the horse found plenty for me in driving finish.
We beat a horse called Mirror Black ridden by Bruce Raymond by a neck.
It was a fantastic feeling to do it for the boss — or Mr Cumani as I called him in the post-race interview!
These days I am on first-name terms with Luca.
Steve Cauthen, Pat Eddery, Walter Swinburn and John Reid all rode in the race. Legends.
I am the only jockey from that race who is still riding today.
Fortunately I’ve ridden a few more winners at Royal Ascot since then . . . and every year still feels so special.
Going in to this week I’m now only three wins away from 70.
I’d love to think I have enough good rides this week to get to that mark — if not a few more.
Of course, the legend of all legends Lester Piggott rode 116 Royal Ascot winners, including 11 Gold Cups!
That’s just incredible. No wonder there is a statue of him at the track!
I reckon I would have to ride into my 80s to even get close to Lester’s total. Hopefully I can edge a bit nearer today, though.
I am on DAARIK (1.15) in the opener, the new Buckingham Palace Handicap.
Sheikh Hamdan has four in the race with his top jockey Jim Crowley, who had the pick of them, on Motakhayyel.
However I am more than happy to pick up a spare ride as good as Daarik. I saw him win at Newcastle and would be hoping he can come on for that run and show a bit more here in what looks a competitive 24-runner race.
Some of these handicaps are a bit of pot luck and plenty can depend on where the pace is.
Next up for me is TEREBELLUM (1.50) in the Queen Anne.
Obviously this is a race close to my heart and I think my filly has a good chance.
She won the Group 2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket a fortnight ago and now drops back to a mile. That won’t be a problem as she has some good tactical speed and, like all top fillies, has a turn of foot, too.
This year’s mile division looks open and Terebellum is in good form. I am sure we will make our presence felt.
Circus Maximus sets the standard, but he’s coming in here without a prep race and we’re pretty hopeful given Terrebellum’s got a run under her belt.
She’s definitely improved from three to four and we’ve got a fitness advantage, so everything looks set for a big run.
I won the Ribblesdale Stakes last year with Star Catcher and look to have a good chance again this year with FRANKLY DARLING (2.25).
She absolutely hacked up at Newcastle on her reappearance, having worked well at home during the spring.
It was a competitive contest as she was taking on colts and she has come out of the race well.
We feel if she is to be a proper Oaks contender — and we have seen a few fillies like Love and Peaceful who are — then she needs a bit more experience.
My only concern is she has not had much time on the track.
Ascot can be quite demanding and the less experienced horses can get found out but, on what we’ve seen so far, she’s entitled to be favourite. Fingers crossed she takes it all in her stride, runs a big race and then we can think about the Oaks at Epsom.
Once I knew I was free to take a ride elsewhere in the King Edward VII Stakes I got on the phone to Aidan O’Brien, and as things have worked out I got the ride on ARTHUR’S KINGDOM (3.00).
Ryan Moore has obviously opted for Mogul, who looks like a very smart horse but, as we saw in the 2,000 Guineas where I rode Wichita, Aidan’s second string can often finish in front of his first as he’s just got so many good horses with untapped potential.
I don’t know much too about the horse but he ran well over ten furlongs as a three-year-old so the step up to a mile and a half here shouldn’t be a problem.
Either way, it’s always exciting when you’re riding for Aidan.
Battaash (3.35) will be hard to beat in the King’s Stand. This is one race I can watch from the sidelines as I don’t have a ride.
There were plans for me to be on Sceptical but we are now waiting for the Diamond Jubilee on Saturday instead.
I am back in action in the Duke of Cambridge where I ride WASMYA (4.10) for Francis-Henri Graffard. He’s a good trainer and wouldn’t be sending one without a chance.
She looks a useful filly, who finished second on her seasonal reappearance in the Listed Prix Maurice Zilber, and hopefully she’ll come on for that run.
I will have to save a bit of puff for the last race, the Ascot Stakes over two and a half miles. I’m on PIANISSIMO (4.20) and he used to be owned by the Queen and trained by John Gosden. I rode the horse a couple of times as a two-year-old.
Tony Carson, who trains him now, is a good friend so it would be lovely to end the day with a winner for him.
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