Brendan Duke: Ascot adventures and a look ahead to the Irish Derby

Brendan Duke ruminates on his fortunes at Royal Ascot, and look ahead to an exciting Irish Derby...


Royal Ascot done and dusted for another year. So many memorable performances. Sadly mine wasn’t one of them. The bank balance this time last week is quite prominent in my thoughts. Very few winners over the 5 days and some unrequited love for a 2-year-old in Gowran yesterday have left me in a pickle.

For the second consecutive year the Gold Cup provided the race of the meeting. Stradivarius running through the pain barrier to pip Vazirabad. The extent of that pain only became apparent the next day. He had lost a shoe during the race and was lame. A warrior of the turf. The performance of the meeting was Alpha Centauri breaking the clock and the opposition in the Coronation. She should make hay while the sun shines and will hopefully be kept busy over the summer.

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The unrelenting rays of the sun haven’t troubled me at all. Chatting to my mother a couple of weeks ago I misdiagnosed some symptoms as a touch of sunstroke. She prescribed a hat. As is often the way with mothers I found myself in possession of a straw boater two days later. The titfer put in a fair shift at the weekend though the extra 6 inches in height did cause some issues.

Waiting for my lift on Sunday I took refuge in the shade of a low hanging tree. The Irish generally don’t do well in the sun and I’m no exception. At one stage I turned around. This led to some serious rustling and my anxious mind, automatically assumed an attack from some territorial, nesting bird. A craven sideways leap dislodged my headgear and despite the lack of an audience a bit of dignity was lost forever.

My biggest non financial regret of the week was reserved for the DART. Jumped on in town, heading for Dun Laoghaire. Sat down oppostite a very interesting looking fellow. Dressed in t-shirt, shorts and flip flops he nonetheless cut an imposing figure. He had a magnificent beard, shaven head, hooked nose and tattoos the length and breath of his bare arms and legs.

The most intriguing thing about him though was the blue varnish applied to his toenails. Admittedly I’m no expert but it looked to be a reasonably professional job too. Sadly this enigma was asleep. How I longed for him to awaken so I could query this contradiction. Even more frustrating was his ability to tilt to a 45 degree angle before straightening himself all while remaining in the arms of Morpheus. Probably a skill he learned on some treacherous ocean crossings. Sadly I’ll never know for sure though as despite doing it numerous time he never went past 90 degrees and never woke up.

Some good fare this weekend with the Irish Derby the standout.

After his Epsom disappointment Saxon Warrior looks a short price. However I’m not convinced enough by any of the oppo to put one up against him. The entries for the Northumberland Plate on Saturday suggest it will be a strong renewal. The Grand Visir is an imposing son of Frankel. He didn’t win by far in Haydock last time out but it looked snug enough to me. The form is working out and he only got a 4 pound rise. He hasn’t had many races and the long straight at Newcastle should help his cause. The 12/1 with Paddy looks a fair e/w price.

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What do you think?