The Excitement of the Melbourne Cup

It’s been a tough couple of years for most of us, and that of course extends to most areas of life. One area we might have imagined would remain untouched is sports, but across the board showpiece events associated with sporting excellence were cancelled. Here I’m thinking of the Grand National, the postponement of the Olympics (until 2021) and more besides. Of course conditions in individual countries differed and so thankfully due to the relatively advantageous pandemic situation in Australia at the time, the Melbourne Cup 2020, did go ahead. Unfortunately though a little of the atmosphere was lost due to the fact that neither members of the public nor owners were allowed to be on course for the event. Still, the race set off on 3rd November, with a total prize money of A$8 million. It was won by Twlight Payment trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden by Jye McNeil.

With 2020 now behind us and the world situation still unclear, it’s a real positive at least that the 2021 Melbourne Cup still looks to also be going ahead (this time on Tuesday 2nd November). It may well be useful to check the Melbourne Cup betting offers even at this early stage, as many bookmakers will be looking to draw punters in early. Competition will be fierce on account that this is certainly a race that gets punters talking.

The race will of course again take place at Flemington Racecourse and at time of writing whether there will be crowds or not this year is an unknown. A consensus is possibly building around the idea that there might not be, but even if that is the case let’s not let that take away from what will no doubt be an unmissable spectacle of amazing thoroughbred racing action in this its 161st running (the first being in 1875). Run over 3200m and with once again top prize money on offer, expect the best of the racing world to go head to head. It’s not known as ‘the race that stops a nation’ for nothing.

Taking place at 3pm at the day in question and broadcast on Channel 10 in Australia, plenty of horses are inevitably nominated to take part in the race, but ultimately only 24 will be able to do so. So who is in the running to take top prize in this showpiece handicapped race this year? Well, while it could be argued that it’s very early in the day to start making predictions. Current favourite at 12-1 with bookmakers is Spanish Mission, and others seen as being in the running at this stage are Prince of Arran (3rd last year), Realm of Flowers, Tiger Moth (who finished 2nd last year), Incentivise and Tarnawa. It should be an exciting affair!

Race Favourites Ahead of the Japan Racing Association Sceptre Fillies’ Stakes

It’s a big week at Doncaster with the St Leger meeting starting on Wednesday September 8. The first day of the meeting sees the Group 3 Japan Racing Association Sceptre Fillies’ Stakes. This is a race for fillies and mares aged three years and over and run over a distance of seven furlongs and six yards. The forecast going is Good to Firm and the winner receives £45,368.

This race is named after the St Leger winner, Sceptre. Trainer Andrew Balding has trained the winner in two of the last three years. Roger Varian has also trained two winners of the Sceptre Stakes in 2016 and 2018.

In 2020, it was Foxtrot Lady, ridden by Frankie Dettori that won at the rather tasty price of 18/1, her first win since 2018. Foxtrot Lady was five-years-old when winning last year. That was the second time in three years that a five-year-old has won this race.

Who will be the winner in 2021?

Let’s take a look at the current odds and here is a analyst’s take on top contenders.

Joseph Patrick O’Brien runs Pretty Gorgeous in this race and has a good chance of success. Hopefully the filly will have better luck than in her last outing at Tipperary on August 26. Pretty Gorgeous finished eighth in the Group 3 race but was bumped at the start and hampered later on.

Earlier this year, this three-year-old was taking part in Group 1 races such as the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket and the Irish 1000 Guineas. Those races were over a mile and a couple on heavy ground. A drop in class, better ground and down to seven furlongs will be of great assistance. Pretty Gorgeous won a Group 2 race over this distance last year, so betting experts are confident of a good run in this race, reported Daily Mail.

Four-year-old With Thanks is trained by William Haggas and has already won a Group 3 race. That was last year at Naas over this distance, winning by five lengths on heavy ground. May of this year saw With Thanks finish seventh in the John Of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock when taking a keen hold.

The only other race in 2021 was on the all-weather at Chelmsford in July in a Listed race. Best to forget that though as only seventh place was achieved and With Thanks didn’t appreciate the surface. Back on turf, this runner can put in a better performance.

Highfield Prince is another runner with a good chance of winning the Sceptre Stakes. Trained by John Quinn, the four-year-old is bidding to win a fourth race of the year. Successes include the Class 2 Buckingham Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June over seven furlongs. That was followed by a win in a Listed race on the all-weather at Chelmsford.

No hat-trick though as Highfield Prince only finished third in a Group 3 race at Goodwood at the end of July. The last outing for this runner was a creditable second behind Space Blues at York on August 21 in a Group 2 race. Back down to Group 3, a good chance is held here for this Sceptre Stakes and Highfield Prince has won on this ground, so another plus.


6 Facts You Didn’t Know About Royal Ascot

There are a select few events in the calendar year that stand out for horse racing fans above all others. One of these is, of course, the Royal Ascot, a five-day extravaganza of pomp and pageantry that takes place each June at the legendary racecourse in Berkshire.

You probably already know that Royal Ascot is an absolute mainstay on the social calendar of the royal court, with Queen Elizabeth II and her closest family, friends, and fellow monarchs all making an appearance to cheer on their favourite horse.

However, given the many centuries that this prestigious event has been in place, there are probably a few things that you don’t know. With that in mind, here are some of the most fascinating Royal Ascot facts that you may not already know.

1. Mundane Origins

Although Ascot has always been royal in origin, it has not always been such a high-profile affair. In fact, when the race grounds were first opened in 1711 by Queen Anne, it was so that she could have somewhere quiet and isolated for her many horses to “to gallop at full stretch”.

2. Sky-High Prizes

By any measure, Royal Ascot is the most lucrative event for racers in the whole of British racing. Almost every single year for the past decade, the prize money has hit a new record. In 2021, the total prize pot reached an all-time-high of more than £6 million.

3. No Socks, No Service

Everyone knows about Ascot’s strict dress code, which includes rules on what kind of formal hats you can wear in certain enclosures. However, less well known is the latest dress code rule introduced in 2018, which stipulates that anyone not wearing socks shall be refused entry.

4. Betting is Big Business

Much like any horse racing sport, Royal Ascot attracts no shortage of punters, with more than £130 million estimated to have been wagered over five days. Unsurprisingly, the top horse racing betting sportsbooks have a constant stream of Royal Ascot content, covering all of the odds and gossip for the 12 months running up to the big event.

5. Foodie Fun

Given that Ascot is essentially a five-day celebration of refined excess, it should come as no surprise that the food consumption is sumptuous, to say the least. Last year, 300,000 attendees quaffed 56,000 bottles of champagne and 44,000 bottles of wine, as well as gorging on 60,000 sandwiches, 5000 Angus steaks, 8000 Cornish crabs, and 3500 fresh lobsters.

6. The Inner Sanctum

You may already know that the royal enclosures, where the Queen and the crème de la crème of society hang out, are the places to see and be seen. What you might not know is exactly what it takes for a mere mortal to gain access to the inner sanctum. For this, you will need written sponsorship from two other attendees to the Royal enclosure, both of whom must have also attended for the past four years.

As the eccentricities and excitement of Ascot continue to unfold with each passing year, we are sure that we will have more fun facts to add to this list in the future.