Racing celebrities phone isolated fans during Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot 2020 was undoubtedly a huge success given the extraordinary circumstances in which it took place, the first time in its history that the summer showpiece was shut to the public.
When the decision was taken to hold the meeting behind closed doors amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Ascot became aware that the racing community to which it owes so much would be missing out and so decided to act.
The Nominate For A Call programme, which formed part of the wider Royal Ascot At Home project, allowed the course and its connections to speak to a community, which had been isolated for many months and now faced the prospect of missing the jewel in the crown of the Flat racing season.
Fans were invited to tell their story and request a short conversation with their favourite equine personality, and they wrote back in their droves.
They included couples who had proposed at the Royal meeting; friends who hadn’t missed the event in years, plus those already suffering with a lack of contact owing to illness or misfortune prior to the onset of the pandemic.
Stars from the world of racing stepped up and made sure Royal Ascot 2020 was not the lonely experience it could have been for some.
ITV presenters Ed Chamberlin, Brough Scott and Mick Fitzgerald all kindly called their fans, while one gentleman who received a call from Sky Sports Racing presenter Alex Hammond said: “I thought it was a wind-up to start off with, absolutely made my day. Alex is one of my favourite presenters.”
Jockeys James Doyle and Jamie Spencer took time out of their heavy schedules to call, while Hollie Doyle, who rode King’s Dragon to victory in The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, called one surprised fan who was nominated by her father.
Veteran ITV presenter Brough Scott surprised 80-year-old racing fan Phyllada Pym after she had been nominated by her granddaughter Charlotte Charlesworth.
“It made her day and she really enjoyed talking to him. It is a fantastic idea,” said Charlotte.