Danny O'Brien met the Queen; Aussie Jim McGrath called his last Royal meeting; former VRC committeeman Peter Barnett cheered home the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes winner Opinion; Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock almost won the Hardwicke with Dandino and Sydney based kiwi James McDonald almost won the Wokingham on Shropshire, reports Steve Moran at Racing Victoria.net.au.


Away from Ascot the likes of Terry Henderson and the brothers Moroney (among numerous others) were on the hunt for a Melbourne Cup winner and two young jockeys, Brenton Avdulla and Jake Noonan were gaining invaluable experience on the 'gallops' of England. 

The week began with O'Brien's Shamexpress finishing midfield in the King's Stand. He'd have been better placed drawn a bit wider but did, in fairness, look to have his chance. The trainer was philosophical...and realistic.

'I was disappointed. I had been quite bullish on the day of the race but it wasn't to be. He was a bit flat when it counted. Maybe he wasn't good enough, maybe the Newmarket win on the minimum flattered him but I still think he's a better horse than what we saw at Ascot,' he said. 

O'Brien is not one to dwell on defeat, but I'm sure his mood was brighter after he and his wife Nina met the Queen the following day. I'm not sure one is supposed to write about such things but given that it's all good, I'm sure nobody will mind. The Flemington trainer 'drew' next to Her Majesty and marvelled at her engaging conversation and knowledge of the sport...shared over a 'cuppa tea' of course. As our English friends would say, O'Brien was clearly 'chuffed' at the experience.

Day one well and truly belonged to the Irish - headed by Dawn Approach righting his Derby wrong with a stirring win over a gallant Toronado in the St. James's Palace Stakes; the ever present Sole Power winning the King's Stand and the heavily backed Declaration Of War winning what was, in my view, a sub-standard Queen Anne.

Wednesday's feature was the Prince Of Wales's Stakes (won last year by So You Think). It was fought out by two high class horses, even if they might not have been so rated six months ago, in Al Kazeem and Mukhadram who staged the battle of the week. Mukhadram attempting to make all and Al Kazeem challenging from the 400 metres. 

Thursday's wins of The Queen's Estimate in the Gold Cup and Lady Cecil's Riposte had the crowd cock-a-hoop and have been well documented for their moment. Even the Republicans among us were probably cheering for the Queen. Well all bar those on the runner-up Simenon as one punter was quick to point out. And fair enough too.

Those successes illuminated the week which had only one dark moment - the misfortunes of Saturday's Hardwicke Stakes when the winner Thomas Chippendale lost his life and the favourite Ekitihaam lost only his chance when he slipped early on a rain affected surface. 

While there was encouragement for the Australian owners of Hardwicke runner-up Dandino, you'd have to say the form might be flattering given that Ektihaam had thrashed Thomas Chippendale by six lengths at their previous meeting. 

The possibly Melbourne bound Lethal Force claimed the Diamond Jubilee in a no fluke win from Society Rock and Krypton Factor who were fifth and sixth behind Black Caviar the year before. Sea Siren finished midfield after racing close to the speed and was not disgraced in what I suspect was more like a shy at the stumps than a planned coup given that she'd come to England to be mated. 

Last year's Herbert Power winner Shahwardi finished second in the Queen Alexandra Stakes just as he did the year before. This time succumbing to the Andrew Balding trained Chiberta King. It is Balding who is hosting Jake Noonan and who might still be a Melbourne visitor with Side Glance this spring. 

'Jake might have a chance to ride a winner Monday,' Balding said in reference to Noonan's engagement to ride International Love at Chepstow overnight. And Noonan definitely gave it every chance but was forced to settle for a narrow runner-up placing. Balding said that Side Glance would now go to the Arlington Million (despite his failure behind Al Kazeem) and that the Cox Plate remained a possibility if the horse ran well in Chicago.

Noonan was enjoying the day at Ascot in the company of Patrick Moloney, who last week rode in the Future Stars race at Chantilly, and Brenton Avdulla who'd spent the week at Newmarket riding out for Luca Cumani and Marco Botti. 

'It's a real eye opener. A great experience,' said Avdulla who returns to Sydney this week. Not far behind him will be James McDonald who's ridden three winners during his brief stint in England. 'It's been an awesome experience,' McDonald, 'but it's just about time to head back.'

McDonald had little time to reflect on his Wokingham near thing as he immediately dashed from the weighing room to head to Lingfield for two further rides. That is the usual lot of the England based jockey. 'I wish I could have got that horse home. That would have been something, a Royal Ascot winner,' he said. 

Much of the action was, of course, called by Jim McGrath - variously known as Aussie Jim or Croc or Crocodile. He left Australia 40 years ago and has perhaps been Australian racing's most successful export. Well I fancy he, at least, rivals Scobie Breasley or Shannon or maybe - even now - the new BHA chief Paul Bittar.

McGrath won't be lost to the business - continuing as a scribe and with some calling duties. Racecallers, like jockeys, do have a use by date it has to be said. Loss of eye and nerve. However, I doubt McGrath's has yet come. 

Another Royal meeting done and dusted. It has no rival if for no other reason that it has the Queen. It has the pomp and pageantry and sustains itself minus overt sponsorship and even if the prize money does not rival other major world race meetings.

It was perhaps best summed up by OTI's Terry Henderson who had Kitten On The Run finish eighth in the Hampton Court. 'I looked down the field and it was hard to find, among the owners,  anyone other than us who needed the money,' he said.