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Glory eludes the countess but club members get a thrill

Headway (fourth right, mainly white colours) runs a huge race to take second in the Coventry
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Rachel, Countess of Coventry, is quite understandably rather keen to win the Coventry Stakes.

On the opening day of Flat racing's finest meeting, thanks to her membership of the Royal Ascot Racing Club, she thought she might. She nearly did, and although she didn't, the scallops were sensational.

The countess is a lovely lady and the club of which her late husband was a founding member is rather lovely as well.

Within the first core of the vast grandstand's second level, its members watched the horse that represents them contest a prize steeped in tradition, particularly if you happen to be related through marriage to the man after whom it was named.

First, though, there was lunch.

To join the Royal Ascot Racing Club one must pay a joining fee of £8,500 plus VAT and then £12,150 plus VAT per year. For that, you get access to splendid rooms, copious food and drink, an interest in five racehorses and the chance to say hello to Lord Lloyd-Webber. On this occasion he was absent, which meant he missed out on the club's signature coquilles St Jacques.

It was a big day at Ascot for the Countess of Coventry

The countess did not miss out.

"Ooh, I had the scallops," she said. "I could eat them all day. Then I had the risotto, salmon and dessert."

For this visit, however, the food was of secondary consideration.

"One of my husband's ancestors was the reason the Coventry Stakes got its title," she explained. "He was the ninth earl and my husband was the 11th earl. I've always wanted to have a winner of the Coventry Stakes for that reason."

'I'm so thrilled to be second'

On day two of the meeting, George William, named after the 11th earl, runs for the countess in the Royal Hunt Cup. In the Coventry Stakes, Headway ran for her and 199 other club members, performing with huge credit to take second at 33-1.

"Oh wow," was the reaction of the countess. "I thought we were third. I'm so thrilled to be second. How fabulous."

As she expressed her joy, Headway walked beneath the club's viewing area to hearty applause. The Coventry was not won by the Coventrys, nor indeed by the Royal Ascot Racing Club, but he did them proud.

I thought we were third. I'm so thrilled to be second. How fabulous
E.W. Terms