Royal Ascot artwork shows racing’s ‘great drama’

Jockey Johnny Murtagh ith the David Mach collage ‘The Great British Drama’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England. The artwork, which was commissioned to celebrate Royal Ascot 2014, is made up of more than 200 images from the historic race meeting, bringing to life many of its remarkable stories.
Jockey Johnny Murtagh with the David Mach collage The Great British Drama at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England. The artwork, which was commissioned to celebrate Royal Ascot 2014, is made up of more than 200 images from Ascot. © Oli Scarff/Getty Images for Royal Ascot

Ascot Racecourse has unveiled Royal Academist David Mach’s latest work The Great British Drama, which brings decades of the world’s best racing against the colourful landscape that is Royal Ascot, to life. 

The collage, unveiled at the Royal Academy, is made up of over 200 images taken from the event over a period of time and is a further example of the unique collage work for which Mach has received so much critical acclaim in recent years.

“Royal Ascot was a particular challenge,” Mach said, “how to get the social and joyous essence of the British into one action still – a sport that combines us all. I love it. It is exuberant and celebratory. We dress beautifully at Ascot, we make an effort – it is probably what I like about it most of all. It’s Britain at its ‘can do’ best.” 

At the centre of the image are six champions of the modern era. Estimate, The Queen’s own Gold Cup winner of 2013, appropriately leads the fictional race, with the Royal Procession, the defining image of Royal Ascot, visible in the background. 

Behind Estimate are four times Gold Cup winner and all time Ascot legend Yeats; Dawn Approach, the winner of last year’s St James’s Palace Stakes after an unforgettable duel up the straight with Toronado; Canford Cliffs, who won championship races at the ages of two, three and four at Royal Ascot; Australian super-mare Black Caviar,  and arguably the best horse of all time, Frankel, both of whom retired unbeaten having lit up Royal Ascot 2012. 

Paying tribute to the equine heroes of yesteryear the small group behind includes Brown Jack, who won at seven consecutive Royal Ascots from 1928 to 1934; Sagaro, trained in France and the pre-Yeats Gold Cup record holder with three wins in the 1970s, and great rivals Le Moss and Ardross, trained like Frankel by the late Sir Henry Cecil, who dominated the Gold Cup between 1979 and 1982. 

On closer inspection of the characters surrounding the fictional race, Sir Henry can be seen looking on over the meeting at which he saddled 75 winners, a record unlikely to be surpassed. 

Other familiar figures in the piece include Channel 4 Racing lead presenter Clare Balding; Michelin Star chef Tom Kerridge, who operates from the Panoramic restaurant at Royal Ascot; the current top trainer at Royal Ascot, Aidan O’Brien; and Wesley Ward from the USA, who has trained three winners at Royal Ascot and holds the record for most successes by a trainer from outside Europe. 

Charles Barnett, Chief Executive of Ascot Racecourse, said the work was a captivating snapshot of Royal Ascot past and present. “We wanted to bring to life some of the many wonderful stories across world-class racing, pageantry, fashion and fine dining which together create the Great British Drama of Royal Ascot and makes it such a special occasion. We feel David has captured perfectly the verve and vibrancy of our historic event,” he said.

“There are familiar faces in the picture and traditions such as the ceremonial Greencoats are reflected too. However, perhaps the most visually striking element of the cast are the racegoers themselves, enjoying the drama of one of the truly Great British Events.”

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