Weighing-room veterans Frankie Dettori and Kevin Manning hailed the return of crowds back to Ascot for the first time since February 2020 after they scooped the two top mile prizes on day one of the Royal meeting.
Manning, 54, steered the battle-hardened Poetic Flare to a convincing victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes for his father-in-law Jim Bolger.
It was just 45 days since the same combination combined to lift the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket – with the horse also showing his toughness by running in both the French and Irish 2000 Guineas in between, not to mention at Leopardstown in April.
Manning said: “You can hear the shouting and congratulating. It’s nice. It’s not what been used to for the last year or so. It’s great to have people cheering from the stands again.”
Speaking from his home in County Carlow, Bolger paid tribute to the horse, whose sire Dawn Approach won this race in 2013.
He said: “That was what I expected. He’s improved so much. He’s extremely hardy and can take it all.”
After finishing second in the Irish 2000 Guineas behind stablemate Mac Swiney, it seemed as though Poetic Flare might have a break and possibly miss Royal Ascot.
“I needed a break to think about it more than the horse did,” said Bolger.
“Then I thought everything is looking good for Royal Ascot and we just carried on.
“He is exceptional. I haven’t had one that takes everything he’s taken.
“I welcome competing with the older horses. He’s entered in the Sussex (at Glorious Goodwood). That is a real possibility.”
Dettori, 50, took his tally at the showpiece fixture to 74 when getting the perfect start on one of the bankers of the week, Palace Pier, in the opening Queen Anne Stakes.
He revealed he has not lost his appetite despite it being 31 years since he opened his account on Markofdistinction in the same race.
“I didn’t need an espresso this morning. I could have done with some Valium. I was that excited,” he said.
“Ascot with people is amazing. Ascot has been a part of my life with the success that I’ve had. You cannot imagine to see the colours, the people screaming.
“It’s great people are back here, it’s like a mirage – there’s nothing better than Ascot with people.”
Palace Pier’s trainer John Gosden agreed, saying: “It’s wonderful. Those people who have taken their tests and come here, it’s fantastic.
“There’s a gorgeous atmosphere because it’s not crowded, it’s very comfortable and it’s a gorgeous day, so to that extent full marks to people who made the effort to come.”
Of his brilliant winner, Gosden added: “Palace Pier’s options are the Sussex Stakes, the Jacques le Marois in Deauville, which he won last year. And obviously you can step him up a trip if you wanted to, for the Juddmonte International, something like that.
“He is a grand horse, great attitude, good looking, nice scope.”
Amtiyaz (33-1) made it a first- and last-race double for the Gosdens, leaving Hollie Doyle all smiles.
The record-breaking rider’s first Royal winner came 12 months ago and while she will never forget it, this one had a different feel, for obvious reasons.
Doyle said: “It’s absolutely amazing. Having a winner last year was good, but to have a crowd here and my family as well is so special.
“It’s been hard for them watching it on TV, but to experience it in real life is a bit different. We’re getting back to normality now, which is what the world wants.
“I knew the horse had ability and he was suited by this galloping track. Turning in, I tried to fill him up and he has got gears for a slow horse. He quickened away nicely and stays two miles.”
Though there as no Royal procession for the 12,000 crowd – part of the Government’s test events – to savour, there was a Royal presence with Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Anne in attendance, as was her daughter Zara Tindall.
Celebrities enjoyed the spectacle, too, including comedian Bill Bailey, winner of the highly-popular BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing in 2020.