Thursday, 28 April 2011

Sophia Loren leads the field

The Italian screen legend graces Royal Ascot

Part 6 in our occasional series of retrospective photographs from the past 300 years of Ascot history looks back at Sophia Loren at Royal Ascot in the 1960s.

The Ascot Royal Enclosure has always played host to famous international figures. But whereas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they were most likely to be foreign royalty and international statesmen, in modern times you are equally likely to see some of the biggest names in Hollywood, dressed and styled by some of the biggest names in couture fashion.

In 1922, the Times cor;respondent was writing that “Ascot is notoriously the best place in England to see beautiful women in beautiful clothes”, and as a stunning Sophia Loren so elegantly demonstrated in this exquisite and classic white ensemble, things have remained unchanged ever since.

Steve Golding’s Textures of Lamb Recipe

Steve Golding, Executive Chef at Ascot Hospitality, has opened up his recipe book exclusively for the Ascot blog. The first of his creations we reveal is Textures of Lamb (serves 8).

1 x 8 Bone Rack of Lamb (Trimmed and cut into cutlets)

8 x 150gm Neck Fillet of Lamb

8 x Baby Shank of Lamb

3 x Baking Potatoes (Peeled)

16 Baby Carrots (Peeled)

500g Samphire

1 x Whole Garlic

16 x Dried Morels (Place in water overnight)

2kg Plum Tomatoes

200g Shallots

1 Head of Celeriac (Peeled)

100g Butter

6 pints Beef Stock

2 large Onions (Peeled)

2 large Carrots (Peeled)

2 Leeks (Cleaned and washed)

Meat prep
· Seal lamb cutlets in a hot pan and set to one side then cook in oven on 180ºc for 8 mins just before serving
· Trim neck fillet and seal
· Place in an oven dish ready to braise
· Dice 1 onion, leek and large carrot and put over the top of the neck fillets
· Trim lamb shanks and seal
· Place in a separate oven dish ready to braise
· Dice 1 onion, leek and large carrot and put over the top of the of the lamb shanks
· Put 3 pints of beef stock in each dish and cover with foil

To cook the neck fillet and shanks place in the oven on 160ºc and cook for about 1 hour until soft. When cooked remove from oven and drain each dish and set to one side keeping them hot. Then reduce the stock from both dishes until thick, ready to use as your sauce.

Vegetable Prep
· Take the peeled potatoes and cut into 8 round discs about 2cm thick and 4cm wide, seal in pan and cook in oven until soft
· Blanch plum tomatoes and peel
· Dice 200g shallots and the tomatoes, and chop 2 cloves of garlic
· Place the shallots garlic and tomatoes in to a pan and cook over a low heat for about 20mins until it looks like a chutney then take off the heat
· Take the peeled celeriac and chop
· Place on the stove and boil until soft
· Take off the heat and drain
· Mash in to a purée with a little butter, salt and pepper
· Wash samphire and cook in a little butter in a pan until soft but still green add a bit of pepper
· Blanch baby carrots in water until cooked
· Drain the morels and heat in a little of the sauce

To Serve
· Use a rectangular plate (12inches in diameter)
· Plate round potato first
· Place a small amount of Samphire
· Next to that place a small amount of the tomato chutney
· Place the cutlet on top of the potato, the neck fillet on top of the samphire and the shank on top of the tomato
· Each side of the neck fillet place a baby carrot and a morel mushroom
· Then on top of the neck fillet place the celeriac purée
· To finish pour over a little sauce

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A reflection of society

Part 5 in our occasional series of retrospective photographs from the past 300 years of Ascot history looks back at a reflection of society in the 1920s at Royal Ascot.

Today all kinds of people rub shoulders at Ascot – stars of sport and entertainment, from home and abroad, racing devotees mingle and novices, aristocracy, royalty, and ordinary men and women from diverse backgrounds. But at times over the course’s 300 year history, when mixing the sexes and different classes of society was unthinkable, the social divisions between men and women, rich and poor, were made very clear at the racecourse.

When the new Iron Stand opened in 1859, it was completely barred to women; divorced men could enter but were barred from the Royal Enclosure. The fashionable London clubs such as Whites, and the “smarter” regiments provided refreshment tents - but entry was naturally by invitation only.

In the 1850s and 1860s more trains were needed for guests and staff travelling to the increasing number of house parties hosted by the great and good during Royal Ascot week. But soon the well-to-do started choosing to travel apart from the crowds in their own carriages, which also acted as private grandstands once they reached the course.

In this picture from the 1920s, the lucky few in their private carriage are even further set apart from those below them in the crowd by their very different attire.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Record American Entries for Royal Ascot amongst Bumper International Cast

No fewer than eleven nations are represented across the entries for Royal Ascot’s seven Group One races, as released today, amongst them a record breaking ten from the USA, three of them doubly engaged in both the King’s Stand Stakes and Golden Jubilee Stakes, legs four and five of the Global Sprint Challenge.

Additionally from outside Europe, Australia has four entries, three doubly engaged in both sprints; Hong Kong three entries, with one doubly engaged; Singapore two entries, with one doubly engaged and Japan is represented by three entries at the initial stage, one in each of the St James’s Palace Stakes, Coronation Stakes and the Gold Cup.

Amongst the USA entries for the Golden Jubilee Stakes is 2010 Santa Anita Derby (Grade One) winner SIDNEY’S CANDY (John Sadler), owned by Jenny Craig, who with her late husband Sidney won the 1992 Derby with Dr Devious.

CARACORTADO (Michael Machowsky), fourth in last year’s Santa Anita Derby and frequently Group One placed subsequently, is very much on course to line up in the Golden Jubilee.

Todd Pletcher has entered three horses for the Royal Meeting - recent Shakertown Stakes winner, STRATFORD HILL, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint fourth, BRIDGETOWN (both in the two sprints) and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, MORE THAN REAL, a Coronation Stakes possible for celebrity chef owner, Bobby Flay.

Shakertown third, GREAT ATTACK, is entered for the King’s Stand Stakes for dual Royal Ascot-winning trainer, Wesley Ward, who has also entered HOLIDAY FOR KITTEN, owned by the legendary Ken Ramsey and his wife, who owned 2009 Golden Jubilee runner-up, Cannonball. Ward is also considering the two-year-old Royal Ascot programme for his in form string.

Last year’s Golden Jubilee third, KINSALE KING, is entered for just the King’s Stand this year, with his colourful Irish-born trainer Carl O’Callaghan planning to run the improving dark horse, LEAVING NEW YORK, in the Golden Jubilee.

Kenny McPeek, who saddled three runners at Royal Ascot last year, has entered KATHMANBLU for the Coronation Stakes with a view to a possible run in the UK after the Kentucky Oaks. He will also have two entries in the Ribblesdale Stakes next week – SASSY’S DREAM and NIJI’S GRAND GIRL.

The Asian contingent at Royal Ascot could be strong this year with the highest profile name amongst the entries (Golden Jubilee only) undoubtedly the Singapore-trained ROCKET MAN (Patrick Shaw), who gained a much deserved first Group One outside his home country in the Dubai Golden Shaheen last month.

Compatriot BETTER BE THE ONE (Michael Freedman), a close third in the Al Quoz Sprint on the same Dubai card, is another possible and is in both sprints. Both Singapore horses have the KrisFlyer Sprint, leg four of the Global Sprint Challenge, as their next target.

Two three-year-olds are entered for Japan - last year’s Grade One-winning champion two-year-old, GRAND PRIX BOSS (Yoshito Yahagi), who has the NHK Mile at home as his next target, and MARCELLINA (Hiroyoshi Matsuda), recent winner of the Grade One Oka Sho (Japanese 1,000 Guineas).

The trio is made up of recent Grade Three winning and Grade Two placed COSMO MEADOW (Shigenori Hatakeyama), a fascinating prospect for the Gold Cup.

Completing the Asian entries are a trio from Hong Kong, including SWEET SANETTE (Tony Millard), entered for both Royal Ascot sprints, who had Sacred Kingdom and One World behind her in second and third in the recent Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (Group Three).

John Moore, responsible for Happy Zero last year, has entered SUNNY KING, third to Rocket Man in Dubai and a regular in Group One company in Hong Kong, in the Golden Jubilee, and XTENSION, fourth in the 2,000 Guineas when with Clive Cox, in the Queen Anne Stakes.

Although it looks a case of next year for Black Caviar’s international campaign, the horse that has so far given the great mare most to do, STAR WITNESS (Danny O’Brien), leads a contingent of four entries from Down Under as the Australians seek to add a sixth Royal Ascot victory to their remarkable recent record.

Star Witness was beaten just four lengths by Black Caviar when they met in November’s Group One Patinack Farm Classic, a week after his victory in the Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes. Trainer Danny O’Brien reports there were valid excuses for his no show in the Newmarket Handicap in March and the horse to be in fine form as they prepare to ship to the UK.

Third behind Star Witness in the Coolmore was SHRAPNEL, for Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Mark Kavanagh and the four-year-old was a Group Two winner on his latest start in March.

EAGLE FALLS (David Hayes) won the Group One Oakleigh Plate in February and represents the stable that sent over last year’s King’s Stand Stakes fourth, Nicconi. In third that day was Black Caviar’s stablemate, HINCHINBROOK (Peter Moody), who is the last of the Australian quartet. The latter is in the Golden Jubilee with the others in both Royal Ascot sprints.

OVERDOSE (Josef Roszival), nicknamed the “Budapest Bullet,” has been entered in the King’s Stand Stakes and is arguably the most fascinating of the European (outside UK) entries, which number 67 from Ireland, 39 from France, 4 from Italy and one from Spain across the seven Group Ones.

Amongst the Irish entry is the formerly Australian trained SO YOU THINK (Aidan O’Brien), who is in the Queen Anne and Prince of Wales’s Stakes, whilst there is no doubt that the star French entry is GOLDIKOVA (Freddie Head), who could bid for back to back wins in the Queen Anne Stakes.

Arguably the race of the meeting last year, the Queen Anne could once again serve up a mouth-watering start to Royal Ascot with CANFORD CLIFFS (Richard Hannon), potentially bidding for a hat-trick of wins at the Royal Meeting following victories at two in the Coventry Stakes and at three in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

Nick Smith, Head of Communications and International Racing at Ascot, said:

“We’re obviously delighted to have received such strong entries, from all around the world, in quality and quantity terms for the Royal Ascot Group One races. 22 individual horses from outside Europe, many doubly engaged, is a record at the initial stage, and there are also two in the Ribblesdale and we’re hoping to see some two-year-olds from the USA as well.

“The Americans steal the limelight somewhat but it is also particularly pleasing to see three entries from Japan, as we haven’t had a runner from there since 2006, and of course to see the name of Singapore’s star, Rocket Man, amongst the entries.

“Whilst the sprints, bolstered by the Global Sprint Challenge, have obviously attracted the lion’s share of the international entries, the interest in the three-year-old mile showdowns is encouraging.

“The British, French, Irish and wider European interest in the Royal Meeting remains just as important as attracting runners from outside Europe, of course, and it is worth noting that Godolphin have made 44 entries and Aidan O’Brien has made 35.”

Monday, 18 April 2011

Royal Ascot Scoops Top National Tourism Award

Image shows John Blake and Karen Smith from Ascot Racecourse receiving the Best Tourism Event honour from comedian, author and presenter Sandi Toksvig (left) and James Berresford (right), Chief Executive of Visit England at the Enjoy England Awards for Excellence 2011 ceremony in Birmingham last Friday.

At a lavish awards ceremony in The Great Hall of the University of Birmingham on Friday 15th April, Royal Ascot won the Best Tourism Event category at the Enjoy England Awards for Excellence 2011. This is a national award with Royal Ascot beating off stiff competition from the Buxton Festival, the Manchester International Festival and the Times Cheltenham Literary Festival.The judging panel recognised that Ascot is synonymous with quality, style and a truly memorable day out. The highlight of the year is Royal Ascot in June with five days of racing, tradition, pageantry and fashion. Outside Royal Ascot, racing takes place throughout the year, each race day offering a unique theme and atmosphere. ‘We are thrilled that Royal Ascot has received this prestigious accolade from Enjoy England. This recognition underpins our status as a first class national tourism attraction.’ said John Blake, Head of Sales and Marketing at the Berkshire track.

‘England has a world famous sporting heritage and, for many parts of the country, horseracing is at the core of the community. I can't think of a more thrilling day out than a day at the races. The Visit England Awards for Excellence provides a nationally recognised stamp of approval showing visitors that Ascot Racecourse provides regular racegoers and first time visitors alike with a top quality and highly memorable experience,’ added James Berresford, Chief Executive of Visit England.

Ascot is committed to providing a value-for-money fun day out for all customers with Royal Ascot, live music, wine and beer festivals, family days and world class racing action.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

And they’re off!

Raymond Glendenning: the unmistakeable voice that brought Ascot to life on the BBC

Part 4 in our occasional series of retrospective photographs from the past 300 years of Ascot history looks back at legendary commentator Raymond Glendenning.

There are not only faces of Ascot but voices too, and Raymond Glendenning’s was one of the most evocative in horseracing. Glendenning in fact provided the audio backdrop to many other sports in his long career as a BBC radio sports commentator, including every FA Cup Final from 1946-1963, the football World Cup and the Wimbledon Championships.

His distinctive broadcasting style of fast-paced commentary delivered in public school, cut glass tones would eventually fall out of favour as “BBC English” in the 1960s and ‘70s, to be replaced with more regional and less obviously upper or middle class accents. But to hear his commentary today is to be instantly transported to a golden era in sports broadcasting, when racing fans would tune into the wireless for an edge of the seat, dramatic evocation of the excitement of the races. Listening to Glendenning’s thrilling commentary was second only to being at Ascot in person, with the names of horses and jockeys coming faster and faster as the race progressed towards a crescendo as they passed the finishing post.

Glendenning was also instantly recognisable in person at Ascot in the 1940s and ‘50s, sporting the distinctive horn-rimmed spectacles and magnificent handlebar moustache that catch the eye in this image from 1949.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Beccy Green’s preparations for the Women in Racing BHEST Charity Race

Emily Pearce has been following PA to the Clerk of the Course at Ascot, Beccy Green’s, punishing training schedule for the Women in Racing BHEST Charity Race on Wednesday 27th April at the Berkshire track. As the sun started to rise, I joined amateur Ascot jockey Beccy Green as she set off on her bi-weekly trip to continue her training with Silent Oasis at Brendan Powell's yard prior to the Charity Race on 27th April. Silent Oasis aka Shirley was ready and raring to go as we drove into the yard with her head over the cheery red stable door welcoming us (or maybe the polo's she knew Beccy would have in her pocket!) to Lambourn. After a swift cup of tea Beccy was told to crack on and get tacked up by the ever efficient Powell Team.

Today, Beccy was to ride out in the company of jockey Clare Wills who rode Massini Man in the Foxhunters at Aintree last Thursday. With a leg up that almost threw her over the other side of the small racehorse, Powell's instructions were to warm up on the first stretch before heading onto Fishers Hill where Beccy and Silent Oasis were to take the lead with a half speed/swinging canter to the top. As they reached the bottom of Fishers Hill, Beccy and Shirley swiftly took the lead and then stretched out to a flat out gallop - not quite what Brendan had in mind but obviously an exhilarating ride for Beccy who reached the top with a huge grin on her face. It was swiftly wiped off as Powell issued her with a speeding ticket and a £5 fine to racing charity BHEST! When asked what Team Powell's top tip would be for Beccy it was a unanimous 'Don't fall off!'. Let’s hope Beccy learns to listen to Powell's instructions when she takes to the Ascot turf in a couple of weeks. For more information on tickets to the Totepool Raceday at Ascot on the 27th April please call 0870 727 4321. If you would like to support Beccy and Silent Oasis in their bid to become an Ascot Champion Jockey then please visit her fundraising site at

For more information on The British Horseracing Education and Standards Trust please visit

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Magnificent Yeats

Yeats truly earns his place on the Gold Cup Role of Honour with an unprecedented fourth win.

Part 3 in our occasional series of retrospective photographs from the past 300 years of Ascot history looks back at the remarkable Yeats; winner of the Gold Cup a record breaking four times.

Of all the great horses of the modern era, none has become more synonymous with Royal Ascot than the legendary Yeats, who won four Gold Cups in a row from 2006 to 2009. No horse had ever before matched this epic achievement. This image shows the magical moment when jockey Johnny Murtagh and Yeats crossed the Ascot winning line and into horseracing history in June 2009.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The 'My Kingdom for a Horse' Exhibition at Royal Ascot

Internationally renowned photographer, Alistair Morrison, will be producing an exhibition of photographs to be displayed at Ascot Racecourse, commemorating its historic tercentenary landmark in 2011. The exhibition, titled ‘My Kingdom for a Horse’ aims to showcase the acclaimed photographer’s images depicting scenes around The World’s Most Famous Racecourse.From the fashion and tradition of the Royal Meeting, to the stewards, stable lads, jockeys and racing lovers, the series of photographs are a reflection of the diverse characters that have made Ascot such an institution in British culture. This definitive collection records and celebrates the heart and soul of Ascot Racecourse in its 300th year. Alistair Morrison said: “My Kingdom for a Horse has been a project of commitment and passion, working closely with Ascot Racecourse for the last three years, to create a collection of photographs which depict all facets of character and life at this famous British establishment. From the power of the horse, the splendour of the fashion and the thousands of visitors welcomed through the gates, it all makes the racecourse unique and colourful yet still manages to hold onto and complement its all important traditions. “Working from early morning to late at night the new grandstand can be quiet yet still provides me with so many memories. First to arrive are the kitchen staff with their trolleys full, then the jockeys and their horses begin to familiarise themselves with the course and soon follow the TV crews and reporters practicing their introductions. As the mass of visitors arrive, the excitement and the anticipation of a great day fills the atmosphere. The tradition, the hats, the dressing up, it all makes for a very special day out which I have enjoyed capturing in this unique project.” The exhibition can be viewed during Royal Ascot in the marquee named My Kingdom for a Horse and around the grounds throughout the year. With over 80 photographs in the Trustee's Collection at The National Portrait Gallery, London, Morrison is considered one of the foremost photographers of the last three decades, with photographs ranging from great icons of yesteryear like Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Peter Ustinov and Sir Alec Guiness; influential politicians Baroness Thatcher, Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton to figures of today such as Dame Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Tom Cruise.

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