Sport on TV: Royal guessing game in the sartorial stakes

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The Independent Online
The crowd at Royal Ascot (BBC1) on Ladies' day can be divided into two groups: those that go to gawp at the horses, and those that go to gawp at the clothes horses. This state of affairs was reflected in the commentary box by the unlikely pairing of Peter O'Sullevan, "the voice of racing", commentating on the event for the last time, and the designer Jasper Conran, "the voice of lacing".

Ever resourceful, the Irish turf accountant Paddy Power had found a way of combining the interests of both groups by opening a book on what colour hat the Queen would be wearing as she drove down the course in her open landau. O'Sullevan gravely described her progress, but Conran - and countless eager punters - had to hold their breath, because her Majesty's titfer, and indeed the rest of her outfit, was concealed beneath a carapace of gigantic black umbrellas. Her carriage looked like a gigantic version of a child's toy tortoise on wheels.

At last the royal party arrived in the parade ring, the brolleys swung aside, and Conran could gasp that the Queen was sporting a straw confection with tangerine trimmings. One would have loved to have seen the commotion on the rails: did Power pay out each way for orange? Some things are best left to the imagination.

As ever the majority of the outfits on display were of jaw-dropping vulgarity, the nation's milliners vying to outdo each other in engineering expertise and sheer bad taste. Here an unfortunate lady teetered under a damp rendition of the Eiffel Tower, there another had seemingly collided with a window box. Feathers seemed to be de rigueur this year, and what with the torrential rain the whole gathering at times resembled a damp afternoon at the Regent's Park duck pond.

Time was when the only sartorial dilemma facing men at Royal Ascot was that tricky tie or cravat conundrum: now it is a free-for-all. Worst offender by far was the wide boy in the scarlet and black Moschino jacket who looked like a Salvation Army general on ecstasy. O'Sullevan declined to comment, and even Conran was shocked into silence.

O'Sullevan's clipped tones were better employed describing the racing, and his calling of the Gold Cup was as expert as ever. "The voice" spotted a long way from home that Pat Eddery was handily placed on Celeric, and as the veteran jockey swooped for the line the veteran's voice rose to a crescendo that will be sorely missed.

From jockeys to disc jockeys, and the second part of Noel's Le Mans Dream (BBC1), being the second instalment of the Blobbymeister's adventure at the classic French endurance motor race. Last week the team were on the brink of qualifying for the event, and it did not require genius to deduce that they made it. Not even Noel could sell the BBC a half-hour show entitled "How We Packed Up And Came Home Before The Race."

So Noel's ugly Panoz cars - Blobby by name, Blobby by nature - were on the grid, and once things were underway his chirpy and confident drivers, led by Andy Wallace, had the front-engined contraptions circulating at remarkable speed. Meanwhile Edmonds was hopping up and down with joy - the team manager had given him permission to help out with the refuelling, having no doubt recognised a natural gasser.

Soon after the early pit stops, one of the team's cars ran out of fuel, but the commentator (N Edmonds) magnanimously declined to point the finger of blame at any single member of the pit crew.

Replenished, the car and its team-mate pounded on into the night, finally expiring after many hours in respectable positions on the leader-board. Reactions among the team and supporters varied. "It wasn't to be this time," driver Wallace philosophically concluded. "We'll have to come back." The pit-lane hanger-on Jeremy Clarkson, who is to hyperbole what Marks & Spencer is to underwear, typically concluded that the whole enterprise had been "like walking to the sun". With Clarkson, presumably, getting a piggy-back.

Head honcho Edmonds was delirious with joy, having completed, he claimed, 22 refuels without incident. "People were hugging me," he boggled, "and we failed!" If you ever win, Noel, it's the Gunge Tank for you.

Strictly Wimbledon (BBC2) got us all in the mood for the tennis with a look behind the scenes at the training camp for ball boys and ball girls run by ex-RAF sergeant Wally "you may call me sir" Wonfor.

Wally justified his strict regime. "They can be shouted at, stared at, sworn at," he said. "There is nothing worse than being shouted at in front of 15,000 people. So you have to assimilate that in their training - jump on them straight away." This year's recruits can relax thanks to this documentary: before being yelled at in front of 15,000 people, they have already been jumped on in front of several million.

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