Royal Ascot will commence on June 16 this year and whilst it is exciting that we are in for an action-packed few weeks of racing, there are several reasons why I think the meeting should have been put back until August.
1 – Lack of a prep run
Racing commenced in the UK on Monday, June 1 and will return to Irish shores on Monday, June 8. This will prove to be a nightmare for many trainers who won’t have the time to give their Ascot hopefuls a preparation run.
Many of the large training operations won’t feel the effects of the break from the pandemic as we have seen already from John Gosden, Mark Johnston and Andrew Balding who are all in red-hot form.
However, there are many that haven’t been as fortunate and unusually, we will see many runners at Ascot who are not going to be one-hundred-percent so there may be a few turn up for the books.
Another factor to consider is the weather. We had the driest May in a century and close to three months of hot dry weather so getting hard work done into your horses won’t have been easy with the ground so firm.
2 – Lack of international runners
Moving Royal Ascot to June 16 has essentially wiped out most of the potential Irish stars that would have come across for the meeting, which will do the festival no favours in the long-term.
Yes, Aidan O’Brien might be there with a couple of runners but you have to ask yourself the question, “Is Ascot really Ascot without the international runners on show?”. The answer is no.
Irish racing gets underway at Naas on June 8, and trainers are not going to get enough horses qualified for the Ascot two-year-old races. These are dramatic circumstances but the planners should have given everybody a chance to catch up.
British racing resumed on June 1, and there will be twenty-eight races run for two-year-olds in the first eight days back. This has been done so that British trainers can ready their juveniles for the Royal meeting.
Another reason why Irish trainers may be very reluctant to travel to Britain in June is because any jockeys or staff they send across the water will have to self-isolate for fourteen days once they return to Ireland.
3 – No potential for spectators
There is every chance we will still have no spectators at racecourses for the foreseeable and the likelihood of having people on the course in August is also extremely slim, but hosting the meeting in June certainly makes sure of it.
My over-riding view is that these plans were drawn up with no regard for overseas runners and no regard for prize-money which could have been substantially more if the meeting was run in August.
Royal Ascot, like the Breeders’ Cup, is known for catering for international runners, owners and trainers and having very few overseas runners at the meeting this year could have a negative long-term effect on the meeting.