11 June 2006
The old adage that form is temporary but class permananent came scorching back to life at Goodwood as Frankie Dettori came up with a dazzling treble in the first three races of a sun-baked afternoon followed by a fourth and fifth later in the card.
Goodwood is made for days like these. A clear blue sky, a merciful breeze rippling across the Sussex Downs, to the south the Solent still visible through the summer haze and out on the track the world’s most famous racing man reminding those present that there are other things beyond World Cup football.
In Dettori’s case, the opening treble included a sprinter called Firenze, a stayer called Balkan Knight and the miler Satchem whose success in the sky blue silks of Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin team was a particularly welcome return for what has become a beleaguered outfit in this early part of the season.
Indeed this was only their third winner of the campaign but the second consecutive success after they resumed operations following a fortnight’s suspension of activities. “The horses just did not seem to be right,” said trainer Saeed Bin Suroor in the winner’s circle. “They looked well but they were not finishing their races at all, they were not even finishing their gallops. Of course it was 40 degrees when we left Dubai in April and four in Newmarket. But it has been like that before and we have won the Guineas. Now we feel we are coming back.”
In truth it has long seemed likely that the wintering of the Godolphin team in Dubai is much more a success in promoting the UAE than it is for young equine development and it is significant that their most expensive yearlings did not go out last winter. It will be very interesting to see what policy is pursued with this year’s two-year-olds.
Satchem had a successful juvenile career for Clive Brittain two seasons back but his failure in last year’s 2,000 Guineas was his sole run for Godolphin until yesterday and his starting price of 100-30 in a field of five did not suggest much confidence of better things. But with two winners already under his saddle, Dettori was in that inspired form that makes him one of the most compulsive to watch performers in the whole world of sport.
He sat quietly in behind the pacemaking favourite Mostashaar and waited until 300 yards from the line before angling out as that horse weakened and the Richard Hughes ridden Stronghold took over. The pipe-cleaner shaped Hughes is one of the most elegant pilots in the game and the duel between him and the now relentless Dettori was one to savour. A 100 yards out Satchem inched ahead, 50 yards later Stronghold fought back only for the low-crouching Italian to nail him right on the line.
It was a great finish but at just £17,000 to the winner the Empire Property Group On The House Stakes is not exactly rich pickings for the Dettori-Godolphin tandem. It did therefore speak volumes for their sense of relief that Frankie chose to give the Goodwood racegoers an ebullient version of his “flying dismount” a feat last seen on TV after Electrocutionist won a cool £2 million in the Dubai World Cup back in March.
“Yes, it’s a great feeling,” said Dettori, whose 35 winners this year have him a full 50 behind leading jockey Jamie Spencer. “You don’t mind being beaten fair and square but our horses were just not getting home at all. Nobody knows what was wrong but we now seem to be getting over it. We can start to rock and roll.”
He was certainly rolling well enough in the first two races getting the filly Firenze decisively through to hold off Border Music in the opener and then driving the six-year-old Balkan Knight past his David Elsworth stablemate Art Eyes in the second. Firenze’s trainer James Fanshawe is hoping that the mare will make the cut for The Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot but Elsworth has rather wider ranging ambitions for Balkan Knight. He is thinking of pitching for the Melbourne Cup in November.
It was Elsworth’s 12th winner since he moved his team from Whitsbury to Newmarket in January and while he has taken time to play himself in on the different training gallops it would be typical of the man if he pulled off an Australian triumph where the ill-fated Persian Punch so gallantly failed five years ago.
Elsworth had hoped to close yesterday with a winner in the sixth race with the filly Dimelight. But within 50 yards of the start the saddle had slipped and Richard Quinn had to pull up. That left Dettori making the running on the favourite Star of Canterbury. In the straight the talented Ryan Moore joined him on the blinkered Italic. For a full 300 yards the senior man battled with the young pretender. Then, with the wonderful sense of inevitability that great champions can conjure, Star of Canterbury found some extra compulsion against the rail.
At the line an Italian arm shot five fingers exultantly skywards. All Goodwood rejoiced. Frankie was back.