Why Bookies and ultimately charities were denied a windfall in profits at the Britannia Stakes race at Royal Ascot, but they did a generous donation.
For those that follow racing closely the Eustace family of racehorse trainers is well known.
Brothers David and Harry Eustice, separate trainers in their own right, played a high-profile role in the build-up to Royal Ascot. Both had horses running in the prestigious five days of racing, but the majority of the chat among punters had revolved around a horse called Coolangatta, trained by David Eustace and much less was said about the three-year-old horse called Docklands, prepared by David’s brother Harry in Newmarket, Suffolk.
While Coolangatta’s well-touted attempt collapsed at the tail-end of the Royal Ascot King’s Stand Stakes race, Docklands provided a rare opportunity for bettors to hit the bookmakers for six when he and jockey Hayley Turner dashed home in front of twenty-eight opponents in the Britannia Stakes race, unfortunately this was the race from which betting industry profits would go to charity.
Supporters took the view that Docklands, the 6/1 favourite, could overcome a sizeable hike in weight added to the horse to help level the playing with its competitors after it won over the same one-mile course at Ascot at month earlier in May, plus it was assumed by punters that it would benefit from a radical change in ground conditions from soft in May to good-to-firm in June.
All of which is clearly not ideal in such fund-raising circumstances, especially when runner-up New Endeavour was a 22/1 shot and not especially high up many peoples’ lists of likely winners; and to think, the vibes had seemed so good earlier in the day when 150/1 and 66/1 outsiders filled the first two places in the opener race at Royal Ascot.
That said, the scheme, masterminded by the BGC, always ensures that the year’s chosen charities – in 2023: SportsAid, the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, the SAS Regimental Association, Together for Looked-after Children and Ascot’s own Ascot Racecourse Supports initiative – receive a significant sum whatever happens, with Council members making a combined donation of at least a quarter of a million pounds, this time £277,000 was divided up.
Other recent Britannia winners’ odds have been more conducive to circumstances, at 18/1, and 28/1, meaning that over the last three years millions has been raised from the Britannia Stakes race.
The race is designed for three-year-olds on the up, and the inexperienced Docklands fits that profile well, galloping off with the prize in the manner of a Group-race-quality horse competing in a handicap with a handy weight, and one that is sure to find more success, though quite where remains to be seen as the owners are shareholders in a syndication company based in the Docklands district of Melbourne.
And the horse is not alone on an upward trajectory: the winning trainer Harry is in just his third season since taking over from his father James at Park Lodge Stables, tucked away behind Newmarket high street, but this is already his second Royal Ascot victory after Latin Lover, which also sent the bookies into a spin when delivered, again by jockey Turner, in the Palace of Holyroodhouse Handicap.
The achievement of reaching the scoreboard again so quickly was inevitably overshadowed coming as it did on the same afternoon as a horse owned by the King and Queen enjoyed their first Royal Ascot win and the retiring Frankie Dettori lifted the Gold Cup for a ninth time, but it should not be underestimated. Many wait years.
The Royal victory – and the King’s daily attendance at Royal Ascot and obvious enthusiasm despite rumours to the contrary – were exactly the stuff of which Ascot’s top brass had dreamed in, potentially, a challenging year for the appeal of an event which for so long had Queen Elizabeth’s continuous presence at its front and centre as maybe its biggest selling point.
Bravo to that. However on the betting front results were more difficult than ever to predict, but despite that many thousands of people relished the simple pleasure of harmlessly having a go and pitting their wits against the bookmakers; what a pity if overly-zealous regulations were ever to threaten all that fun.
Royal Ascot in 2024 is expected to be June 18-22: the dates are already in my diary, just like Harry Eustace’s runners are in my race-tracker.