Ascot has to cancel Shergar Cup because of international dimension

Chris Cook
Photograph: Eamonn McCormack/Getty Images

This year’s Shergar Cup, the competition involving jockeys representing regions of the world along with an international women’s team, has had to be cancelled.

The Ascot event, scheduled for its usual early-August slot, was perhaps the race day most vulnerable to the coronavirus crisis, since it requires the presence of jockeys drawn from all around the world performing in front of a family-based crowd of up to 30,000.

Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing, said: “Regrettably, given the complexities of flying jockeys around the world and uncertainty over what governmental regulations will be in place at the time, the Shergar Cup won’t take place this year.”

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Guy Henderson, Ascot’s chief executive, added: “We decided that this event, even if logistically possible, wouldn’t be the same without crowds and that the best option was to plan ahead to return with the event in 2021.”

Ascot will work with the British Horseracing Authority to devise a replacement programme of races for the day.

The event would have featured the return to Ascot of Emma-Jayne Wilson, the swaggering Canadian rider whose cheerful volubility made her a crowd favourite and a staple at the event for several years until her most recent appearance in 2017. Hayley Turner was also expected to take part, a year after finally winning the Silver Saddle for top rider at the meeting, which she described as “a massive thrill”.

While Ascot hope to press ahead with the Royal meeting behind closed doors next month, the Shergar Cup would be much less likely to succeed in such a format, even if an appropriate collection of jockeys could be assembled.

Its appeal is mainly to those present in the grandstands; purist followers of the sport have not warmed to it in great numbers, while its programme of 10-runner handicaps featuring unfamiliar riders means it is of only limited appeal to punters.

“I’m absolutely gutted,” Turner said. “I understand why it has to be this way but the Shergar Cup is always the highlight of the year for me. It’s good fun and it’s nice to get together with the international riders. But we can’t grumble, can we? There’s a lot worse things going on.”

Josephine Gordon, Hollie Doyle and Hayley Turner (left to right) celebrate 2018 Shergar Cup victory. Photograph: Julian Herbert/PA

Meanwhile, Andrew Balding has enthused about the Qipco 2,000 Guineas prospects of Kameko, fourth in the betting for the Classic a week on Saturday. Balding sent his stable star, a Group One winner when last seen in November, to Kempton for a gallop last week and liked what he saw.

“I couldn’t be happier with him,” the Hampshire trainer said on Tuesday. “He had a gallop at Kempton last week and Oisin [Murphy] rode him. He looks magnificent. He’s a lovely horse to have anything to do with and we’re all very excited.”

Murphy had also been “really pleased” with the colt. “We didn’t do anything silly. It was important that he went away and had a good blowout but nothing too crazy. He has a lovely turn of foot, as we all saw last year, but he’s also very relaxed and you can put him anywhere [in a race]. From a jockey’s point of view, that’s exciting. It leaves you plenty of options and he goes there with a massive chance.”

As a caveat, the jockey expressed his admiration for the Guineas favourite, Pinatubo, whose unbeaten juvenile season made him the best two-year-old in Europe for 25 years. “I think he deserved his rating last year, he beat everything impressively. I thought the day at the Curragh was just incredible and the clock backed it up as well. So we have massive respect for him. You just hope one horse has improved more than the other from two years to three.”

Balding added that soft ground would be a concern for Kameko but weeks of dry weather in Newmarket makes that seem a remote possibility for now.