Iâ€™ve been so impressed by the determination of all involved with this Royal Ascot to make sure we are entertained. It shows, for example, in the inventiveness of ITVâ€™s faux Zoom songs around the bandstand at the end of racing and also in the sheer number of races.
It would not have occurred to me, if organising this hopefully one-off, behind closed doors Ascot, to add in a bunch of new handicaps and take the total number of races to a record 36 over the five days. Handicaps are, of course, a danger to anyoneâ€™s wallet and I canâ€™t say the new ones have done me any good. But they also represent an opportunity and I still have hopes of todayâ€™s Silver Wokingham.
Their addition must have been a good idea because Iâ€™ve enjoyed every race and I already have that dull feeling inside that comes from knowing itâ€™s almost over and there is no Royal Ascot card to study for tomorrow. Or maybe itâ€™s a heady mix of sleep deprivation and frustration at some of the outcomes …
Anyway, said Silver Wokingham will be along to lift our spirits in a matter of two hours or so. If you canâ€™t bring yourself to have a punting interest, pretend youâ€™re the commentator and try to learn the colours for these 24 sprint handicappers, most of whom havenâ€™t been seen since last year. Or pretend youâ€™re a tipster and try to guess what the going will turn out to be and where the jockeys will steer their horses, as a first step towards working out what might actually happen.
It will be the first action on an enormous, unprecedented eight-race card at the Queenâ€™s venue that includes the two top-class mile races for three-year-olds that are among my favourite races for the whole year. The St Jamesâ€™s Palace Stakes would normally be run on the Tuesday of Royal Ascot but has been held back this year to give the Guineas horses a few more days to recover, a decision rewarded by the renewed rivalry between Wichita and Pinatubo, the placed horses at Newmarket.
In normal years, the Saturday card is not the most friendly for punters, in my view, being dominated by big-field sprints and the baffling enigma that is the Queen Alexandra. But todayâ€™s card has something for everyone who enjoys a bit of Flat racing, including the Coventry, with a thoroughly unexposed 16-runner field containing the next favourite for the 2,000 Guineas of 2021 somewhere in their midst.
There has been no more rain since racing ended on Friday and, although there is a risk of showers, the going is expected to dry out slowly through the day. It is officially good on the straight course, while the round course remains good to soft with good places.
Jim Crowley is back to try and add to the six winners of the best week of his racing life. Those hardened competitors Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori will prevent him from becoming top jockey here if they can.
Enjoy it, be lucky and if youâ€™re feeling deflated at the end of it all, remember that the virus-enforced compression of this season is here to help us; the Derby will be along in just a fortnight!