Racing / Royal Ascot: The frame is the spur: Richard Edmondson views fashion victims off and on the track

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FOR MANY, Royal Ascot is the shop window of the year. In its most blatant form, this is the meeting more than any other which attracts people who don't know their horse from their elbow, the sparely attired mannequins who appear to be 10 minutes into a nude revue.

For the men, a morning suit makes flamboyance less easy. The key here lies in regalia, and among the well connected there are enough badges for a scout jamboree. Paul Cole, the trainer of River Deep, a dead-heater in the Jersey Stakes, had three beneath a yellow rose in his lapel: blue, triangular-shaped (trainer's emblem), green shield (owner's stand) and apricot barrelled (royal enclosure).

All this sartorial effort leads to regular televised inserts from a fashion watcher (not something they do at the Challenge Cup Final) and popping cameras. This week has also seen an unusual amount of photographic activity on the racecourse, where 10 of the 12 races so far have been determined by developer.

It is the track too, which offers the most serious shop window. With a huge television audience watching and an inordinately large and wealthy clientele in attendance, horses, jockeys and trainers can all catch the eye.

Three years ago, Alan Munro was the vogue rider after winning three events here on Dilum, Magic Ring and Fair Cop. But since then he has lost both his lucrative job with Fahd Salman and his public standing, and recently decided to take up a job in Hong Kong.

Before then, though, there are spare mounts to be chased in Britain, and Munro pointed out yesterday that there was no better advertisement than his victory in the Royal Hunt Cup on Face North. 'When you lose a contract like I did you lose a little bit of prestige as well,' he said. 'It's really valuable to win here, and I can't express how much you need results like this. I'm really thrilled.'

Michael Bell is 14th in the trainers' table and recognised as one of the best young tradesmen in the sport, yet he still feels he needs a winner in Berkshire in front of the monarch to put his Newmarket yard in the showcase. Bell thought yesterday was to be his hour, but had to settle for third in the Queen Mary Stakes with Hoh Magic.

'It is important to win here because one, the races are worth a lot of money and also it's all high-profile stuff,' he said in the unsaddling enclosure. 'I'm sure we'll have one at 4.20 tomorrow.' That is the time Princely Hush runs in today's Norfolk Stakes.

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