Up the Stretch Awards–'The Stretchies!'

Stradivarius | Racing Post photo


For the past few years, we have celebrated the highs and sometimes lows, of the Royal Ascot meet with A Tip of the Top Hat awards.

Originally over these five days, we presented `The Down the Stretch' awards, but the homestretch at Ascot is a gradual uphill tussle. I think it is much harder for a thoroughbred to pull, to dig down deep on the incline in the final three furlongs. Very trying and tiring. Thus, the Up The Stretch Awards.

Here are the 2020 STRECHIE winners.

The winner of the QUICK TURNAROUND AWARD is also the hero and the goat this week.  We in the colonies don't see thoroughbreds, especially at this high level, return to the racing wars so soon after a race.  Hey Jonesy (Ire) (Excelebration) {Ire})

finished 22nd in a field of 23 on Tuesday at 33-1 in The Buckingham Handicap. So when you saw this longshot roll right back with only four days rest, and leave the starting gate at only 17-1 on Saturday in the seven-furlong Wokingham S., wouldn't you scratch your head and wonder where the money was coming from? Even more baffling is the fact that this gelding beat 21 others to win by a nose!  Well, there you have the goat on Tuesday, becoming the hero on Saturday. His victory was the low point in the week for me.

The very BEST PERFORMANCE BY A HORSE was Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}, a sensational stayer, bred and owned by Bjorn Nielsen. The now 6 year-old won the G1 Gold Cup for a remarkable third year in a row. Like Forego and Kelso, Stradivarius seems to be getting better as he ages. His margin of victory was 10 geared-down lengths. And on Thursday, Frankie Dettori riding for trainer John Gosden on the gallant now-6 year-old completed this very difficult hat-trick. Leading the stretch procession was simply breathtaking.

The HIGHWAY ROBBERY STRETCHIE goes to Pinatubo (Ire) (Shamardal) in the G1 St. James's Palace S. Pinatubo had won six out of six as a two-year old, and was the heavy heavy favorite on Saturday. He finished second, and (in U.S. dollars) paid $2.02 for a $2 tote bet in England.

BEST SINGLE RIDE AWARD goes to Ryan Moore, who I think may have been the only rider who could have coaxed, muscled, bullied and pushed Circus Maximus Ire (Galileo {Ire}) to a nose tally in the G1 Queen Anne S. I should also salute the gutsy and tough winner, trained by Aidan O'Brien.

TOP TRAINER UP THE STRETCH AWARD goes to the classiest of gentleman, John Gosden. He gave himself a good excuse for Stradivarius before the race, if he had lost. John was not comfortable with the soft designation of the course. How wasted his words. It looks like Stradivarius could run on mushy porridge and still win.

THE INVADER AWARD goes to Wesley Ward. A super professional outstanding trainer, who is also a great ambassador for America at the highest level of European thoroughbred competition. Wesley finally got his 11th Royal Ascot victor on Friday with Campanelle (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}). He is the most famous American trainer at Ascot because of his extraordinary groundbreaking efforts at the Royal meeting. And the locals love him.

THE RITZ UP THE STRETCH AWARD is not now called the Leading Jockey of the Royal meeting. I'm going back to the previous moniker. Give THE RITZ AWARD to Frankie Dettori, showman, exuberant, crowd loving Italian, who is also, at age 49, one of the best jockeys in the world. Like Kelso, Forego and Stradivarius, Frankie gets better and smarter as the years pile up.  When I was working at Santa Anita, many journalists and broadcasters said Bill Shoemaker should retire. Soon after that, “Shoe” rode the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Don't retire Frankie.

LUNCH OF THE WEEK award this year will go vacant. Scribes like me enjoyed the extravagant buffet spreads in the Ascot Press Box. But this year those great repasts were non existent. Somehow the ballpark franks I have been having for lunch, even with Skyline chili,  just doesn't get the same dining star rating from Bobby Flay.  Maybe next year?

THE BACHELOR AWARD goes to Tom Marquand, who won his first Royal Ascot race 24 hours after his girlfriend Hollie Doyle won her initial Royal tally. Tom took the Queen Alexandra S. on Who Dares Wins (Ire) (Jeremy).

THE JOHN HENRY AWARD (for old timers) goes to a repeat winner. The 94 year-old owner of Tactical (GB) (Toronado {Ire}), hero of The Windsor Castle S. Every year, for the past 86 years, she has attended all days of the Royal Meeting. If you don't think being a fan of this beautiful and exciting sport keeps you young, check out how racing has kept owner, breeder, and fan still on top of her game.  She is also the Queen of England, Elizabeth II. Hope to see you next June.

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