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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019
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From Royal Ascot to the Kingdom, Frankie Dettori's summer reign is remarkable

The Italian’s incredible career continues, writes Donn McClean.

Frankie Dettori and Antoinette Oppenheimer celebrate their win.
Frankie Dettori and Antoinette Oppenheimer celebrate their win.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IT’S FAIRLY REMARKABLE, the summer that Frankie Dettori is having.  It’s a Group 1 summer in every sense: literally, figuratively, metaphorically.

You could say that the rider’s summer started at Ascot – and lots of Dettori things start at Ascot – but actually it probably started at Epsom, when he got Anapurna back up deep inside the final furlong to beat Pink Dogwood in the Investec Oaks. 

You could even argue that it started at York, at the Dante meeting in May, when he won the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup on Stradivarius and the Group 2 Middleton Stakes on Lah Ti Dar.

But, with the benefit of the 20-20 vision that is hindsight, we know now that he was only getting going then.

Royal Ascot was phenomenal.  We have been over this ground many times by now, Royal Ascot 2019 and Frankie Dettori.  Seven winners, all seven of them Group races, three of them Group 1s.  And those four winners in the first four races on the Thursday, the day on which, if Turgenev had hung on in the Britannia, that would have been five from five, and there may not have been many bookmakers left on Friday.

Then there was Enable in the Coral-Eclipse, the return of Enable, taking the first steps on the road that will, all going well, lead her back to Paris in October – and the next step is this Saturday in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot – when she will bid to make history by winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three times on the spin.  Enable would be high-profile on her own but, with Frankie Dettori on board as part of the story, she is box-office.

The day after Dettori won the Eclipse on Enable, he went to Deauville and won the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat on Too Darn Hot.

How apt.

Dettori was at it again at The Curragh on Saturday.  His ride on Star Catcher in the Kerrygold Irish Oaks was a masterclass in the nuances of front-running tactics, in getting the fractions right.  It was Steve Cauthen in his pomp.

John Gosden’s filly may have been the best filly in the race anyway, but Dettori’s ride was one of optimum efficiency, one which maximised his filly’s chance of winning the race.  Her closing sectional was fast, which gives credence to the hypothesis that Dettori engineered an easy lead.  And we know that Frankie Dettori with an easy lead is a potent force.

Fleeting emerged from the pack to give chase under Donnacha O’Brien as they raced to the furlong pole and, maybe for a fraction of a second, about a hundred yards out, you thought that Aidan O’Brien’s filly might just get there.  But, close home, she wasn’t getting any closer.  Perhaps Star Catcher was idling.  She had been in front for a long way, for about a mile and three and a half furlongs, so you can forgive her if she was seeking company.  But it appeared that, as soon as the Sea The Stars filly sensed Fleeting’s presence, she picked up again.  She probably had a fair bit more in hand than the half-length winning margin.

Star Catcher’s next steps will be interesting.  She is obviously a top class filly, a Group 1 winner now, a Classic winner, and she is progressive.  She was racing for just the fifth time in her life on Saturday.  She has the potential to go even higher.

But John Gosden has such depth of talent among his middle-distance fillies.  He has the superstar Enable for starters, and Middleton Stakes winner Lah Ti Dar, and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Coronet.  And Prix de Mallaret winner Mehdaayih, who was sent off as favourite for the Epsom Oaks after she won the Cheshire Oaks.  And we still haven’t seen Oaks winner Anapurna again yet.

You would have thought that the Yorkshire Oaks would be the obvious next race for Star Catcher, but that is the obvious next race for most of those fillies, so it will be interesting to see how John Gosden campaigns each filly from here.  The trainer mentioned the Prix Vermeille as a possible target for Anthony Oppenheimer’s filly in the aftermath of Saturday’s race, and that would be interesting.  Looking further ahead, while she is not even quoted for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in some lists, she has the potential to progress sufficiently to be a genuine contender in France in October.

Speaking of which, Frankie Dettori was back in France on Sunday, at Deauville, where he won the Listed Prix de Bagatelle on Twist ‘N’ Shake and the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin on A’Ali.  It is difficult to believe that it is almost 29 years since he rode his first Group 1 winner.  His remarkable career continues.

 

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Donn McClean

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