Dancing Star and David Probert after last year's Stewards Cup success at Goodwood
ANDREW Balding will be one of the local trainers bidding for Royal Ascot success when the annual showpiece meeting gets under way on Tuesday.
The Kingsclere trainer will be joined by Roger Charlton, Harry Dunlop, Mike Channon and Hughie Morrison among others tackling the flat racing spectacle, and it is one that racegoers relish.
That view is also held by jockeys, notably the locally based David Probert, who guided Balding’s Dancing Star to major success last year and rides the horse in the climax of the week-long festival.
“This time of year is always great with Royal Ascot just around the corner,” he said. “My most exciting ride of the week is aboard Dancing Star in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the big race on the Saturday and one of eight QIPCO British Champions Series races at Royal Ascot.
“She’s taken a couple of starts to get her spot on this year,” he added. “She ran over five furlongs at Newmarket on QIPCO 2000 Guineas day and it was a bit quick for her, but she ran a much better race at Windsor in a Listed race last time out. She’s coming on leaps and bounds and hopefully she’s back to her best for Royal Ascot.
“Riding at Royal Ascot obviously adds a little extra pressure for a jockey. It’s one of the biggest stages in the world, in front of Her Majesty The Queen! But when you’re riding for someone like Andrew Balding, he doesn’t put much pressure on you and lets you ride your own race.
“I try not to complicate things too much, yes it’s a prestige race with a lot of prize money on offer, but the more you think about it the more mistakes you tend to make, so I stay relaxed.
“Aside from Royal Ascot,” he said, “I’ve been really pleased with my season so far. I’m 10th in the Stobart Flat Jockeys’ Championship and I couldn’t have asked for a better start. I’m riding for a lot of different trainers and if I carry on this way I’m heading for the best season of my career. Like all jockeys, I just want to keep injury free, work hard and hopefully that will deliver the results on the track.
“Finally I quite like another of Andrew’s runners called Count Octave in the Queen’s Vase on Thursday. He was sired by the great Frankel and will stay the trip, so I thought I’d share this with you. Good luck!”