Donn McClean: Magnificent Dettori crowns a week to remember at Royal Ascot

Lots to digest, and lots to whet the appetite, writes Donn McClean in this week’s column.

Dettori: seven winners across the week, including a brilliant four-timer on Thursday.
Dettori: seven winners across the week, including a brilliant four-timer on Thursday.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

HIGHLIGHTS OF ROYAL Ascot 2019? Not easy to come up with a definitive list. There were many.

Frankie Dettori was one. Actually, Frankie Dettori was seven. They weren’t all on the same day, but Dettori was still Magnificent.

The Dettori magic began on Wednesday, when he won the Queen Mary Stakes on Raffle Prize, then booted Crystal Ocean home in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. But we didn’t really know that it was magic until the following day.

Dettori Thursday began with A’Ali in the Norfolk Stakes, and it continued with Sangarius in the Hampton Court and with Star Catcher in the Ribblesdale Stakes. Dettori himself said that he hoped he hadn’t used up all his luck before Stradivarius in the Gold Cup. He hadn’t.

In truth, however, luck didn’t really come into it. Stradivarius was the best horse in the Gold Cup, and Dettori rode him accordingly: travelled well just behind the leaders, angled out at the two-furlong marker, quickened up smartly. It was Stradivarius’ seventh win on the spin, and it was his second Ascot Gold Cup. Just two more and they’ll have to put a statue of him in the parade ring.

It was Dettori’s seventh Gold Cup, and it was his fourth win on the day, out of four races. It looked like it was going to be five from five too when he kicked Turgenev into a clear lead in the Britannia Handicap 40 minutes later. Ultimately, he was caught by Harry Bentley and Biometric, but it was still a special day.

Actually, every one of the five days was a special day. It was Royal Ascot after all. Day one was a special day for Aidan O’Brien, a Coventry Stakes and St James’s Palace Stakes delivered by Arizona and Circus Maximus respectively. Three more winners for Aidan O’Brien made it a special week, and saw him crowned top trainer at the meeting again.

Royal Ascot - Day One - Ascot Racecourse Ryan Moore and Circus Maximus: one of Aidan O'Brien's big winners. Source: Mike Egerton

Blue Point bookended the week for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin and James Doyle. The son of Shamardal won the King’s Stand Stakes on Day One over five furlongs, then went back on Day Five and won the Diamond Jubilee over six. Horses do run in both races these days, in the two Group 1 sprints at the Royal meeting. Both races are Group 1 races now and, with one of them on the first day of the meeting and the other on the last, it gives the sprinters a chance.

That said, you have to go back to the Antipodean pioneer Choisir to find the last horse to win both, and that was in 2003.

The Godolphin horse was more impressive in winning the King’s Stand on Tuesday, in beating Battaash by over a length, than he was in winning the Diamond Jubilee on Saturday, just getting home by a fast-diminishing head from Dream Of Dreams. He is so fast, a fast-run six furlongs on Ascot’s stiff straight track probably stretched him just to his limit.

He has some CV now though. A Diamond Jubilee and two King’s Stand Stakes, as well as an Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai and a Gimcrack Stakes as a juvenile. He goes to stud now with the headlines in his sails, a dual winner at Royal Ascot, winner of the Diamond Jubilee four days after he had won the King’s Stand Stakes. You know that demand for his services as a stallion will be high.

Hayley Turner rode Thanks Be to win the Sandringham Stakes on Friday, and became just the second female rider ever, and the first since Gay Kelleway in 1987, to ride a winner at Royal Ascot.

“It was only a matter of time,” said Hayley Turner.

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And she was right.

“I hope it’s not another 32 years til the next one,” said Gay Kelleway.

We all do. And it won’t be.

Royal Ascot - Day Four - Ascot Racecourse Hayley Turner was the first female rider to win a race since 1987. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Danny Tudhope had just 10 rides at Royal Ascot for the week, and he won on four of them. He won the first race on the first day, the Queen Anne Stakes, on Lord Glitters, and he won the last race on the first day, the Wolferton Stakes, on Addeybb. Then he won the Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday on Move Swiftly.

He wasn’t at Ascot on Thursday, he was busy winning a handicap at Ripon on Faylaq. But he was back at Ascot on Friday for one ride, Eagles By Day, who belied big odds by finishing third in the King Edward VII Stakes, and he was back again on Saturday, day five of five, when he rode Space Traveller to win the Jersey Stakes.

That’s a 40% strike rate for Tudhope at Royal Ascot 2019, and a level-stakes profit of €47.00, and third behind Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore in the Qipco Leading Jockey award.

Other highs? Japan was really impressive in winning the King Edward VII Stakes, and the Galileo colt could yet prove to be the best middle-distance colt of his generation. He could run next in the Grand Prix de Paris, but it would be great to see him take his chance in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes back at Ascot at the end of July. It would be fascinating to see how he would fare against his elders in the King George.

Pinatubo was impressive in winning the Chesham Stakes, and Defoe may not get the credit that he is due for the performance that he put up in winning the Hardwicke Stakes, and Hampton Court winner Sangarius is shaping like a horse who could go higher still, and Watch Me was scintillating in the Coronation Stakes, and Romanised was unlucky not to finish closer than he did in the Queen Anne Stakes. And others.

Lots to digest. Lots to whet the appetite for more.

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Donn McClean

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