Sunday Times, Sunday 21 June
Forget all the showbiz. What distinguished another extraordinary Dettori day at Ascot was the wisdom of his strategy. Campanelle, Alpine Star and Palace Pier followed the week’s Frankly Darling, Fanny Logan and Stradivarius to make him Royal Ascot leading rider for the seventh time. They did not lack help from above the saddle.
Campanelle hails from the Florida base of the American trainer, Wesley Ward, whose 11 Royal Ascot winners have been renowned for blazing fast from the starting stalls. But from Campanelle’s wide outside draw, Dettori was prepared to take his filly back and then nail the leader Sacred in the final 100 yards. That was Frankie’s 71st winner at the Royal Meeting since Markofdistinction broke his duck way back in 1990. Two races later, he finally competed the clean sweep of all the Group One events when Alpine Star came over the Irish Sea to win the one mile Coronation Stakes for Jessie Harrington, and this was a master class at saving ground along the rail and sprinting four length clear at the finish.
Alpine Star is a little chestnut filly about half the size of her half-sister Alpha Centauri who broke the track record winning this race for the same connections in 2018. Alpine Star had Quadrilateral in third, just as Oaks favourite Found had in the 1,000 Guineas and although Dettori suggested that a mile and a quarter might be Alpine Star’s optimum distance, both her pedigree and her racing style suggest she should stay the mile and a half of the Oaks itself.
If that was good, what followed was even better, when Pinatubo produced much of last year’s brilliance to knife through the St James Palace field from last to first only for William Buick to find the horse fade beneath him and get chinned by Palace Pier and that man Dettori. Tactical decisions in these races have to be made at full gallop in fractions of a second, and understandable though it may have been for Buick to move up into a position on the turn, if he had his time again he would have chosen to track Dettori, not move before him.
But no one’s perfect, not even Britain’s favourite Italian. For in the following Diamond Jubilee, he worked the Irish favourite Sceptical into the lead in the last furlong only to find he had got there too soon and got clawed back by the gallant Hello Youmzain and an inspired Kevin Stott. It was the young rider’s first winner at Royal Ascot and having won this by a head in a photo finish, what did he do but take the next by a nose on the 18-1 shot Hey Jonesey, trained like Hello Youmzain by his main employer Kevin Ryan.
Maybe Sceptical was one that got away but at 49, Frankie’s Ascot haul has reached 73 and counting – equalling the tally of Pat Eddery. “I sat next to Pat for 15 years, he was one of my heroes, I used to nickname him ‘God’ and to equal him gives me great satisfaction, God bless him,” said Frankie in tribute. “I woke up this morning thinking I had some great rides and it’s been an unbelievable day and an unbelievable Royal Ascot. To come out of here with six ones is not easy.”
Beside all the Dettori glitter, this Behind-Closed-Doors Royal Ascot has had many highlights; the blazing speed of Battaash; the staying super show from Stradivarius and a royal victory with Tactical for our absent Queen. But yesterday’s Coventry Stakes win by Nando Parrado at 150-1 produced the longest priced winner in all of Royal Ascot’s 213-year history. At those odds you would have thought it would have been a total shock but to trainer Clive Cox and jockey Alan Kirby it was anything but.
Like all of his 13 rivals, Nando Parrado had run but the once and his awkward starting fifth at Newmarket was not nearly enough evidence to dismiss him. A well-bred, 200,000 gns yearling trained and ridden by the combination who produced Friday’s big winner Golden Horde, who had worked well last week. How could we have missed it? Callum Jamieson of The Sun didn’t. He tipped it and will dine out on Nando forever.
The lesson, as ever, is to remember it always makes sense afterwards. Especially – at Ascot -if you are Frankie Dettori.