25th Jun 2012
Osblog 18 Royal Ascot
In Alice In Wonderland there is the famous Caucus Race where everybody runs round and round and when it is all over everybody wins. It feels as though Royal Ascot came as close to that as is possible and the 2012 version can be hailed as the perfect festival of racing. From Frankel to Black Caviar the results went the way we might have asked, if selling the sport is our aim. The racecourse development is stunning and the nostalgia peddlers are beginning to accept that the course handles the crowds easily and customer service is extremely high.
Ascot is accused of skimping on prize money relatively, but the prestige is unequalled and this is what makes the prize money argument so confusing. The Dubai World Cup was forced to break all records to fast-track to prestige, a method mirrored in Singapore and Hong Kong as they developed their international programmes. The UK model is for beautiful infrastructure, great customer care and “assistance” for overseas runners, rather than prize money. While the prestige is sky-high, this strategy is working and the economists will say that the supply (of prize money) and demand (as in runners/participants) curves cross at the optimum point, so everything is wonderful. The English footballers were once paid a maximum wage and it all seemed wonderful then too – unless you were a footballer.
Moonlight Cloud was beaten a shortening head by Black Caviar and we applauded dutifully, though another Group 1 win for Invincible Spirit would have been nice. It happened the day after we were notified that our accounts for 2011 were approved by the Dáil and could be published, where they show that the Irish National Stud recorded a modest profit, having endured a few seven-figure loss-making years. We are always reliant on the income from a top class stallion or two and I describe Invincible Spirit as the strongest horse in the world since he carries an entire farm on his shoulders!
Finding the next one is the great challenge and the opportunities and rumours are swirling. Royal Ascot prestige carries all the way to the breeding shed – our current roster includes six horses all of whom ran at the Royal meeting during their careers. We have seen the future elite sire running in the last few days. The question is which one?