Twelve months after Stradivarius’s controversial defeat in the Gold Cup that saw John Gosden describe Frankie Dettori’s ride as “overcomplicated”, the trainer and jockey were celebrating together after the Italian guided Courage Mon Ami to a famous success in the staying prize at Royal Ascot.
For Dettori, whose farewell season is set to be one of his most productive in a riding career spanning over three decades, it was his ninth victory in the Blue Riband after strikes on Drum Taps (1992 and 1993), Kayf Tara (1998), Papineau (2004), Colour Vision (2012) and Stradivarius (2018, 2019 and 2020).
Courage Mon Ami, racing for Qatar operation Wathnan Racing, owners of Wednesday’s Queen’s Vase victor Gregory, was unbeaten heading into the meeting but also the least experienced in the 12-runner field, having raced only three times before, winning two races on the all-weather and a handicap at Goodwood.
Despite the huge class jump into Group 1 company, the four-year-old Frankel gelding travelled well in Dettori’s hands in the final trio as 2021 hero Subjectivist and Joe Fanning cut out the running, tracked by the keen-going Lone Eagle and the Ballydoyle duo Emily Dickinson and Broome.
Favourite Coltrane and Oisin Murphy, racing in sixth for most of the two-and-a-half mile journey, made their bid for glory turning for home as Subjectivist started to feel the heat. They hit the front with a furlong and a half to run but in behind Dettori was making giant strides on Courage Mon Ami.
Courage Mon Ami found the perfect split under Dettori and edged ahead of Coltrane approaching the final furlong and while Coltrane tried valiantly to battle back, Courage Mon Ami found plenty once sent for the line, taking the spoils by three-quarters of a length, with Subjectivist three and three-quarter lengths back in third.
John Gosden, who shares training duties with son Thady, told ITV Racing: “We didn’t know whether he’d stay. You can’t practise two-and-a-half miles at home. Frankie rode him cool and kept him in the dark down on the inside and saved every inch.
“He went to go outside at the head of the straight, but he said no, got back in and managed to wriggle through and found a great run.
“He’s a lovely horse, bred by Anthony Oppenheimer who sold him because it costs a great deal of money for English breeders to keep their studs going. He’s a gelding by Frankel but he’s unbeaten. He’s gone from the all-weather to Goodwood to here, so full achievement to the horse.”
Gosden continued: “There horses are hard to buy. Both this horse and the horse [Gregory] yesterday were owner-breeder horses and the costs of keeping their studs are such that they had to sell.
“It was a great ride by Frankie. He’s only good in long-distance races now! He’s had a phenomenal career. Thirty years we’ve been working together on and off. He went to Godolphin then came back to me.
“We had one argument in 30 years. How many marriages could say that? We patched it up after five days and we were winning Group 1s straight away in Deauville. We had a disagreement, that’s fine and professional, and we kicked on with life. And look at the result today.”
On a special afternoon in Berkshire, the King and Queen enjoyed a first winner at the Royal Meeting as the William Haggas-trained Desert Hero came from off the pace to take the King George V Handicap (1m4f).
Tom Marquand, whose wife Hollie Doyle became the first woman to ride a Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot aboard Bradsell in the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday, was seen at his strongest on Desert Hero, overhauling Valiant King and Oisin Murphy close to the line to score by a head.
Haggas said: “It’s fantastic, a great honour for all of us, and I’m thrilled they [The King and Queen] were here to witness it.
“Desert Hero wasn’t 6-4 favourite, so I think expectations were relatively low, but hopes were high, and it came good. It was a beautiful ride, a bit of a bob and a weave up the straight, but he made it and fair play to Tom.
“We discussed the race beforehand and I thought he was going to be more forward, but he obviously thought they were going too fast, and they were. He stayed on really well – it was his first time at a mile and a half.
“How proud am I? This is what it is all about for us, and when you are given the privilege of training some horses for the late Queen and the King and Queen, it’s an honour. We are here to deliver, and try to. It doesn’t happen very often.
“They have been looking forward to Royal Ascot for a long time and they hoped to have as many runners as possible. I think they will be absolutely delighted.
“It’s very important for horseracing, but it’s also important that the King and Queen enjoy it, which they clearly appear to do. Long may that continue.”
Marquand made it a double on the day aboard the Ed Walker-trained Waipiro in the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes (1m2f) for owner PK Siu.
There was a stunning upset in the day’s opening race, the Norfolk Stakes, as 150-1 chance Valiant Force captured the Group 2 contest under Rossa Ryan for Kia Joorabchian’s Amo Racing and the Irish stable of Adrian Murray.
US raiders American Rascal, a son of dual Royal Ascot heroine Lady Aurelia, and No Nay Mets for Queen Mary Stakes-winning trainer George Weaver were fancied along with Karl Burke’s hitherto unbeaten Elite Status, but it was Valiant Force who showed too much speed for his rivals, scoring readily by a length and quarter from 66-1 shot Malc in the Middleham Park Racing silks.
The SP saw Valiant Force become the joint-longest-priced winner at the Royal Meeting following Nando Parrado’s 150-1 success in the 2020 Coventry Stakes.
Murray said: “I can’t believe it. I fell into racing by accident. A friend of mine got me involved in the Flat. It’s magic. We were third here on Tuesday [in the Coventry Stakes] and I wondered if that would ever happen again.
“We knew Valiant Force was a nice horse and I couldn’t believe the price – he was only beaten less than a length by His Majesty first time out and was 150-1 today. It didn’t make sense – I knew he was much better than that.
“It’s the stuff of dreams. It’s great for the small man. I’m based in Mullingar and have had some right nice jumpers in the past. I love it, love racing!”
The Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes (1m4f) fell to the Aidan O’Brien-trained Warm Heart for Coolmore under Ryan Moore, taking his tally for the week to four winners, as odds-on favourite Al Asifah failed to fire, coming home in sixth.