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Even on the final day, there was no let-up in the style stakes at Royal Ascot and, in the Royal Enclosure at least, it seemed as if the new, stricter, dress code was being adhered to. Almost 80,000 people filled the racetrack; the women’s colourful array of hats and dresses providing a bright contrast to the sombre background of the men’s jackets and tailcoats.
Despite the poor weather and gusting wind which carried off many a woman’s carefully-arranged millinery, the raceday atmosphere, congenial company and ample refreshments on offer ensured that everyone was in high spirits. Even before the racing started, the huge cheers that greeted The Queen’s carriage procession demonstrated the crowd’s enthusiasm and admiration for the monarch in her Diamond Jubilee year.
For many people, the highlight of the day was the 3.45pm Diamond Jubilee stakes, and the audience was peppered with black and orange banners and Australian accents in support of the legendary Black Caviar. There was a huge cheer as we caught a first glimpse of the mare, who had been flown in by chartered plane, and by the time the race was ready to commence the crowd bristled with a palpable tension.
Racing in pursuit of her 22nd victory, Black Caviar made a strong start on the pristine course but faltered near the finish, ensuring that most of the spectators had chewed off their nails by the time she won by a thrillingly narrow margin. Watching from the grandstand, it seemed as if the whole thing had happened in a flash, yet the 2012 Diamond Jubilee stakes and its world-famous victor will surely find a deserved place in racing history.