We are all dreamers. Watching Royal Ascot this morning, the dreams came alive for Tanya and John Gunther, Eve Johnson Houghton and a few others beyond the big names of Gosden, Dettori, Buick, Appleby, Mullins and Abdullah.
Pure theatre played out in international color, the best of the best, the reason any of us got involved in this crazy, frustrating, captivating game.
The Gunthers bred and race Without Parole, a son of Frankel and the Lemon Drop Kid mare, Without You Babe. John Gunther purchased her dam, Marozia, for $50,000 at Keeneland November 2003. Fifteen years later, Without Parole delivers a Group 1 stakes win at Royal Ascot.
Shrewd, affable and independent, the Gunthers spent a summer at Saratoga a few years ago. Every day, I would drop off two copies of The Special while they stood near the outside rail of the Oklahoma Training Track. They’re fans of the game, we would regale and rejoice over the previous afternoon’s exploits. Now, we’re regaling and rejoicing over their exploits – breeder of Triple Crown winner Justify and owner/breeder of St James’s Palace Stakes winner Without Parole. Now those are dreams.
Eve Johnson Houghton opened the card with an upset win from Accidental Agent, a horse bred and owned by her mother. Tears. Oh, there were tears. ITV’s Oli Bell, who ran onto the track when Big Orange, trained by his uncle Michael, won the Ascot Gold Cup last year, delivered a heartfelt hug to the owner/breeder after an emotional interview. Bell summed up the game in one spontaneous gesture, which he’s starting to perfect. As for Accidental Agent, he failed to sell for 8,000 guineas at Tattersalls Yearling Sale in 2015. Perhaps a nightmare then, it was certainly a dream today.
• One runner tonight. Flushed at Presque Isle Downs. A new recruit, the 3-year-old Pennsylvania-bred takes on open company in a two-turn maiden special. Dreams come in all shapes and sizes.