It took an immense amount of thought, planning and organisation to ensure that Royal Ascot was the first major British sporting event post-lockdown, and that hopefully extended to ensuring that the track’s hub for weather and going news has enough servers and bandwidth to cope with the demand on a day like today, when a millimetre or three of rain at a vital moment could transform the course of the afternoon.
As things stand, the going has quickened up a little since yesterday morning, when it was good-to-soft all over, and it is now officially good on the straight course and good, good-to-soft in place on the round. In fact, as time-and-going guru Simon Rowlands has pointed out on Twitter, the time of the first race yesterday – the revived Buckingham Palace Handicap – suggests that the ground was closer to good than good-to-soft, as it was similar to times recorded in the past when the ground was riding good-to-firm, so with little rain recorded at the track in the last 24 hours and just under 2mm lost to evapotranspiration, it is no surprise that it is a little faster today.
With a distinctly unsettled forecast today, some punters may be hitting “refresh” on the weather hub every 30 seconds to get the latest news and amend their betting strategies accordingly. It’s a service which was initially conceived with owners in mind in particular, as having a runner at the Royal meeting and enjoying all that goes with it is what many get into ownership for in the first place. But the information, with unprecedented depth and detail, is available to all, and it will also inevitably throw up the occasional puzzle, such as the current report that the track has had no rain for 24 hours.
This will come as a surprise to anyone who was watching yesterday’s action, when, for instance, the lens on ITV’s in-running camera was covered in raindrops at one stage. The answer, according to Chris Stickels, the clerk of the course, is that while the weather station which feeds the hub did not register any rain, another gauge at the track recorded 0.2mm – a reminder that when it rains over an area as large as Ascot racecourse, it does not necessarily rain everywhere or evenly.
Jim Crowley hit the ground running on Tuesday with three winners and Maydanny, his mount in the opening Silver Royal Hunt Cup at 1.15, has attracted plenty of money this morning to move to 9-2 second-favourite (from 13-2 overnight), half a point behind the Ryan Moore-ridden Ouzo. Moore is aboard two more (current) favourites in Japan, a 6-4 chance for today’s big race, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, and Chief Little Hawk in the Windsor Castle Stakes, while Frankie Dettori has two market leaders in First Receiver – who is owned by the Queen – in the Hampton Court Stakes and Lord Tennyson in the Royal Hunt Cup.
The latest betting for top jockey at the end of the week is 11-10 Moore, 7-4 Dettori and then 9-2 Crowley, and the action is underway at 1.15