Frankie Dettori back at the top of his game with masterclass in Ebor

Sunday August 21 2022

Suggestions of Frankie Dettori’s demise were long forgotten as racing’s favourite 51-year-old rolled back the years with a masterclass of enterprise and expertise on Trawlerman to win the Ebor Handicap at York by less than a nostril from the gallant grey Alfred Boucher.

The enterprise came in plotting a solo course wide of the others for the first half-mile before tacking across to join them and start the straight from the front; the expertise in the balance and rhythm with which he held the blinkered Trawlerman together in the head-bob of a finish. Trawlerman looks as if he has a few queries about the game and reached his muzzle across in protest as first Alfred Boucher and then the much-fancied Irish horse, Earl Of Tyrone, headed him in the early stages of the closing battle. But those last yards are always the hardest as the strain got the better of Earl Of Tyrone, but with just six strides to go, Alfred Boucher was still half-a-length to the good.

PJ McDonald is a first-rate jockey and did everything right on Alfred Boucher, but his horse did not know where the winning post was, and clamped down behind his pursuer’s mane, his body moving in perfect muscular sync with Trawlerman’s final push, was the most perfectly-balanced jockey that this country has ever seen. It was the narrowest of margins and cruel luck on Alfred Boucher, who had won on this course but three days before, and whose enthusiastic and boldly-attired owner-breeder, Robert Allcock, could surely have been spared what would have been his greatest-ever triumph by Trawlerman’s Godolphin owners, who have already had 140 wins this season to Allcock’s single one on Wednesday.

It seems a long time since Royal Ascot and Trawlerman’s trainer, John Gosden, was so exasperated with Dettori’s rides on Stradivarius and others that he announced that the pair would be taking what turned out to be a rather short-lived “sabbatical”.

To be a great trainer you need to be a master of equine psychology and it helps if you are good with humans, too, for the move clearly jolted Dettori into reminding himself and the rest of us that when on song, he has a talent that only winning can truly fulfil.

He is now being booked for all sorts of big races and had won the previous event to the Ebor with a beautifully- judged ride on Kinross.

His were fine memories of four warm and happy days on the Knavesmire, but they were not the greatest.

Splendid though this Ebor was, it has to bow before the superstar that was Baaeed and the little wonder called Highfield Princess.

What Baaeed did to last year’s Juddmonte winner Mishriff was truly awesome. There was the horse ranked as the world’s top thoroughbred in the lead and flat to the boards and Baaeed just cruising beside him. The six-long lengths Baaeed put between them before the post confirmed him as the global leader and made the world hope that his Shadwell team will pitch for immortality by now tilting at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The Shadwell team have an international roster of broodmares, while John Fairley has just one. But she has produced Highfield Princess, whose climb from a distant eighth at Redcar two years ago to the dizzy heights of a Group One victory at Deauville two weeks ago, and then a dazzling victory in the Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday, was a story to restore the faith, most especially at York.

For Highfield Princess is trained by the astute John Quinn at Fairley’s own Highfield Stables, but 20 miles from the track. At its greatest meeting, she provided something unforgettable that Yorkshire could proudly call its own.

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