PAT HEALY BLOG: Brand Ambassador and racecourse photographer Pat Healy reflects on last week’s Royal Ascot, which saw Frankie Dettori equal the all-time record number of wins at the meeting.
Looking back on Royal Ascot and from a personal perspective it was obviously sad to have missed it. It’s the first time in 25 years that I haven’t been there and while it’s never the same not being on course, I still really enjoyed the coverage. I thought ITV did a really great job and they should be given great credit for making the viewing experience as enjoyable as it was.
There are always highlights and that’s what makes it such a special meeting. This year was no different and it was great to see winners coming from Ireland and America. The international element is such a big part of the meeting these days and to see the likes of Aidan O’Brien, Jessica Harrington and Wesley Ward getting on the scoreboard shows the regard the five days are held in around the world.
Another highlight was Jim Crowley’s fantastic week – to ride six winners at a meeting as competitive as Royal Ascot is very impressive. Jim’s a very popular fella in the weighing room and I’m sure everyone was really happy to see him have such a fruitful spell.
From the Irish point of view, Joe Foley’s Ballyhane Stud had a fantastic Friday with his two stallions producing two two-year-old winners in Dandalla and The Lir Jet. It was a great success story for the Irish breeding industry to be able to compete with the premier breeders and to come out on top shows the improvement our industry has made over the last few years.
The other winner that really stood out for me was Stradivarius in the Gold Cup. It was the one race that really made we want to be there to capture the moment. He’s a fantastic horse and has become the people’s horse. He’s the sort of horse we need in our sport and now he’s won three Gold Cups, I expect they’ll set their sights on equalling Yeats’ record of winning four. We should cherish him for how brilliant a horse he has become because there aren’t many like him and it’s going to take a pretty good one to take his crown away in 2021.
Frankie Dettori enjoyed another brilliant Royal Ascot and there’s certainly the same amount of love for him over here in Ireland as there is in the UK. He’s box office and people just adore him as was shown when he came over to Kilarney last year. The course was absolutely packed out and there were people there who had never been racing before who were only there because they wanted to see Frankie in the flesh. It didn’t really matter that he didn’t ride a winner because he put on such a good show for everyone and I lost count how many autographs and selfies he did while he was there!
Wherever he goes, people know who he is and he’s the one who can put racing on the front pages as well as the back pages. He is an invaluable asset to the racing industry. He’s now equalled Pat Eddery’s tally of 73 Royal Ascot winners and it would have given him great satisfaction because he used to call Pat ‘God’. To tie ‘God’s’ record will have been very special to him.
Everybody knows it’s about quality not quantity for Frankie now. At this stage of his career, it’s all about the big stage and the big days. We saw last week that he’s not showing any signs of getting near the end and his continued success can only be good for racing.
I would just like to applaud RTE’s weekly show. The team are doing a great job in obviously tricky circumstances and it’s fantastic that racing in Ireland has now got a regular weekly show. The racing industry produces 25,000 jobs in Ireland and puts €2 billion into the economy, so the sport deserves a regular spot on TV each week. Hopefully it will become a permanent fixture on Irish national television sooner rather than later.
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