There is no better jockey for the biggest stage in Flat racing than Frankie Dettori and the Italian produced another masterclass at Royal Ascot on Thursday, recording a fabulous four-timer.
A well-judged ride on the Simon Crisford-trained A’Ali in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes got Dettori’s afternoon off to a flyer. The pair had closely tracked the well-fancied Sunday Sovereign before unleashing an electric turn of foot to claim the five-furlong contest.
Crisford and Dettori are old allies; Crisford was of course racing manager for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and for many years, Dettori was number one jockey in the Godolphin blue.
A’Ali was making only the second start of his career at the Royal meeting, having finished a close second to Spartan Fighter on his debut earlier this month. Bred by Tally-Ho Stud, A’Ali is from the last crop of the late Society Rock and is out of the Motivator mare Motion Lass.
He was purchased at this year’s Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale by Stroud Coleman Bloodstock for £135,000.
Crisford said: “Frankie is obviously the go-to jockey when you really need somebody – he was available, and he gave A’Ali a super ride.
“It’s great to be in the winner’s enclosure at Royal Ascot and I’m surrounded by some really strong supporters of mine over the years, including Sheikh Mohammed. His great friend Shaikh Duaji owns this horse and is from the Royal Family of Bahrain. They have all been so supportive and it counts for a lot.”
The momentum carried Dettori into the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes and he teamed up with another old ally, Sir Michael Stoute, to guide the highly-regarded Sangarius to victory in the 1m2f event.
A homebred for Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, Sangarius is the third winner of the Hampton Court Stakes in seven years for the operation after Remote struck in 2013 and Time Test scored in 2015.
Stoute said: “Sangarius is a horse we’ve always liked a lot. He did it well, he was tight for space, and he couldn’t get enough room to get into a rhythm. But he has a turn of foot, and he is improving; he’s a nice horse.”
By the time it came round to the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes, ‘Frankie fever’ had taken hold in Berkshire as Dettori went out on Star Catcher. The crowd were rewarded for their faith when the John Gosden-trained filly quickened past her rivals to win by one and a half lengths.
With Dettori oozing confidence, he reunited with Gosden immediately after the Ribblesdale to be legged up on Bjorn Nielsen’s outstanding stayer Stradivarius in the Gold Cup.
Bidding for back-to-back victories in the 2m4f Group 1, Stradivarius was kept handy by Dettori as the field set off at a moderate pace. Turning smoothly into the home straight, there were worrying moments when the five-year-old was short of room and it looked as if he would not get out.
However, Dettori waited patiently, almost as if he knew a gap would open up, and as he was presented with clear daylight, the phenomenal Stradivarius unleashed his turn of foot to rapturous cheers from the Ascot crowd and ensuring his place as one of the all-time staying greats.
Dettori said: “Stradivarius is an amazing horse. He has won two Gold Cups – his heart is bigger than his body and he does not know how to lose. All I have to do is get him amongst other horses and he does the rest – what a horse!
“I get nervous [riding this horse] because the people care about him so much and it’s a great story for Bjorn [Nielsen] and the stable. Every time he runs, he delivers – he is unbelievable.
“This horse has captured people’s imaginations in the way that he runs and the way that he wins – we’ll bring him back next year.”
Nielsen, who has called Stradivarius his “horse of a lifetime”, said: “Frankie is riding so confidently, and he rode Stradivarius confidently. Stradivarius is a good stayer and he has a huge heart. He was travelling so well, I thought he’d get a gap and when he went through it was over.
“I’m not focussed on the bonus [Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers Million] but if he comes out of this fine then he’s likely to head to Goodwood next. If he can win [the Goodwood Cup] three times, then that’s incredible.”
Bentley spoils the party
It didn’t look as if there would be any way of stopping Dettori notching his fifth successive winner of the day on the Gosden-trained Turgenev in the Britannia Stakes, but Harry Bentley aboard Biometric reeled the pair in to score in thrilling fashion.
As Turgenev looked to have a clear advantage in the final furlong, Bentley weaved his way through on Biometric from the back of the nearside pack and found an extra gear to win by a cosy one and a quarter lengths.
Bentley said: “Frankie seemed unstoppable given the run he was on today, but I felt like I was coming with a really good run and thought I was always going to get him.”
Successful trainer Ralph Beckett said: “It wasn’t the plan to be that far back but obviously they’ve gone hard and it’s all fallen into place. We were flat out halfway, at the three-pole I thought we were going to be last.
“Biometric has always been a sleeper, he’s not a flashy worker, he was a very immature two-year-old and he had an issue and he never ran. I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Dettori said: “Twenty years ago I’d have won that! I loved it. He was 16-1 this morning and went off favourite. He gave me a great spin. I’ve had a great day and I’m not going to cry!”
On a day that had been dominated by a legendary jockey, the master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O’Brien, proved the strength of his three-year-old string when South Pacific led home stablemates Constantinople and Eminence in the King George V Stakes.
Ryan Moore and Constantinople looked to have the contest in their grasp but South Pacific and Derby-winning jockey Seamie Heffernan came with a strong run to pass the leader and claim the 1m4f handicap by a neck.