Racing / Royal Ascot: Intoxicating thrill of a well-bred lady: Sue Montgomery says Lochsong was a regal presence at an eventful Royal Ascot

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The Independent Online
THERE IS always a danger that a festival of sport will not live up to its billing, but last week's Royal Ascot meeting most certainly did. Everything that is good about the sport was there: passion, excitement, commitment, sportsmanship, courage and at least one wonderful champion. And the four days not only provided racing of the highest class, but set the scene for some mouth-watering contests in the weeks to come.

But sadly, we also saw one of the downsides of racing, and, it might be said, of modern life. It seems quite extraordinary that the reward for drunken hooliganism is a tap on the wrist from the police and a fat cash payment from a newspaper in return for bragging about a piece of irresponsible behaviour that could have killed a jockey and a horse.

Race-riding is risky enough, as recent accidents have shown, without the intervention of drink-fuelled airheads. The Jockey Club's threatened ban is not likely to affect the man concerned - he is not a regular racegoer and the motive for his dash was allegedly to get to 'the toffs and gorgeous women in miniskirts' - but we must hope they go ahead with it.

There is a tendency for some people to use a visit to the races as an excuse for an all-day drinking session and if racing's masters are to market the sport as an activity suitable for families on a Sunday then they must be seen to be taking action to curb the riff-raff element, who are not, it has to be said, always confined to the cheaper enclosures.

But last week the participants, at least, did us proud. Most of the races needed the camera to split the principals - and in one case it could not - but as Lochsong proved, it does not take a close finish to provide a thrill. She is the hero - or rather, heroine - racegoers crave and though a mile and a half may be the purist's distance, Lochsong burning off the opposition over five furlongs is a mighty fine sight. She's a sprinter of the old-fashioned type: bred for it, with a backside even the inebriated Mr Florey might know from his elbow.

One of the many joys of Lochsong is the unreserved pleasure she brings not only to racegoers, but to her connections. Jockeys, in particular, tend to be a bit po-faced in victory, but there is no doubting the sheer delight that Frankie Dettori gets from riding the mare. He would be hard pushed to find a Ferrari with better acceleration and cruising speed, and the gentle, almost tender, pat of gratitude he gives her as he crosses the line says it all.

All roads will lead to Newmarket in 18 days' time when she will meet the rising three- year-old star, Owington, over the extra furlong of the July Cup. And beyond that, maps will be out for Goodwood later in the month.

Last week's St James's Palace Stakes, with that pulsating finish from Grand Lodge and Michael Kinane, did not identity the leading three-year-old miler, though it eliminated a few contenders. The Sussex Stakes rematch between the first two, with Mister Baileys and Barathea thrown in, will be a race to travel for.

The riding performances of the meeting - on Barathea, Foyer and Kissing Cousin as well as Grand Lodge - came from Kinane, and it is a shame that the Irishman was unable to collect his Ritz Club trophy at Ascot yesterday due to bread- and-butter commitments at Gowran Park, where he resumed his winning ways.

The ground at Ascot, which remained fast for the whole four days, scuppered the hopes of more than one leading fancy, notably the battalions from Manton. But, given his ground, Turtle Island will bounce back, as will Mehthaaf, whose next clash with the brave Lemon Souffle, in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, will be one to savour.

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