With Frankie Dettori’s final Royal Ascot looming ever closer, we take a look at what kind of week is in store for the irrepressible jockey.
If you packaged up the video highlights of the last six months of Frankie Dettori’s 2022, mixed it in with his farewell year of 2023 and set it to My Way by Frank Sinatra, you’ve got yourself a YouTube smash.
Royal Ascot has been kind to Dettori throughout his career, but not last year. Last year was the ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few,’ bit, combined with the ‘I bit off more than I could chew,’ bit. He hadn’t had a winner by the Thursday and then got criticised for his rides on Stradivarius and Saga, leading to the public kick up the backside from John Gosden and their subsequent ‘sabbatical’.
But Dettori ate it up and spat it out, certainly doing it his way, announcing his retirement a year in advance last Christmas. Six months on, Frankie is at the top of his game, a couple of Classics in his back pocket on a farewell tour that next stops at his beloved Royal Ascot.
Inspiral was his only winner at last year’s Royal meeting and she could be his first at this year’s, if she goes for the opening Queen Anne Stakes. She can be hot and cold, but when she’s on it, as she was in last year’s Coronation Stakes, she’s full of class and she strikes me as a potential statement ride for the week for Dettori.
Manaccan will have his supporters in the King’s Stand Stakes, with good Ascot form in his locker, and Frankie rode him to third in the Palace House Stakes last time so could be on board again, while 2000 Guineas winner Chaldean will have a favourite’s chance in the St James’s Palace.
These are the sort of rides you want as you face the final curtain.
Frankie could ride into day two on the crest of a wave, then. It’s a big day for him and while Desert Crown was ruled out just days after Dettori had been confirmed for the ride in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, there's always Champion Stakes winner Bay Bridge for the same yard.
The PoW is the third and feature contest, but before then Dettori will likely have had a Queen Mary ride – Ocean Mermaid looking a possible if he teams up with his old pal Wesley Ward – while after Bay Bridge there’s potentially Laurel, in the Duke Of Cambridge, and Saga, in the Royal Hunt Cup.
Saga. For the new King. In the Royal Hunt Cup. 12 months on from finishing second on the same horse at the same meeting in the Britannia, where he got pelters for giving him loads to do. Saga! It would be so Frankie, even if the Prince of Wales's would still be the showstopper.
When you think of Dettori’s iconic Royal Ascot moments the saluting finger after Lady Aurelia’s eye-boggling Queen Mary success in 2016 is top three status.
Wouldn’t it be nice, therefore, if he rode her son, American Rascal, in the Norfolk Stakes that kicks off day three? I’ve no idea if this is in the pipeline, trainer Wesley Ward may well bring over his own jockey again, but it would be nice, and when you’ve announced to the world that you’re retiring at the end of the year it seems to be that nice things happen to you.
American Rascal or not, Gold Cup day is always a big day for Frankie Dettori and he’s won the feature race eight times in the past, including three times on Stradivarius – but not last year.
Stradivarius is now retired, but Courage Mon Ami is an unbeaten four-year-old for the Gosdens and he could well try and defy inexperience (he’s had just three runs) in the big one, the son of Frankel looking every inch like a classy stayer in the making.
Gosden’s three-year-old fillies are looking good after Soul Sister’s Oaks success, so expect Dettori to be on John Gosden’s selected in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes. Who could that be? Perhaps Lmay, a daughter of Frankel who bolted up at Newbury the other day.
The July Cup is the only UK Group 1 that has evaded Frankie Dettori in his career so he’ll be keeping his options open ahead of that race next month. Kinross (more on him later) could be the one but so could the same owner’s Lezoo who will bid to prove herself a top-level sprinter in the Commonwealth Cup.
She’s a Group 1 winner and an Ascot winner, while she didn’t stay in the 1000 Guineas, so this looks the obvious race for her, as does the Coronation Stakes for Queen For You. The Gosdens’ daughter of Kingman only made her debut at Ascot on May 3, but she bolted up and then shaped like the best filly when second in the Listed Michael Seely Memorial race at York.
You would think Dettori will be on her and Gosden looks sure to be represented in the King Edward VII Stakes, too. Another slow-burning Kingman, Inquiring Minds, last in the Lingfield Derby Trial, could be just the type for this race, while fillies races like the Albany and Sandringham will likely offer Frankie other opportunities, as well.
By now Frankie could have had a final Royal Ascot for the ages, after wins for Inspiral, Chaldean, Saga, Bay Bridge, Courage Mon Ami, Lezoo and Queen For You. “It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” he weeps live on ITV, wiping his Italian tears on Ed Chamberlin’s best suit.
But if it hasn’t quite worked out like that, he’ll always have Stratum.
It looked a weird one when Dettori elected to skip the final day of York’s Dante meeting to fly over to Leopardstown on May 19 for one ride on their evening card, but that one ride was aboard Stratum, winner of the Queen Alexandra Stakes the last two years.
Ryan Moore and William Buick have ridden Stratum to Royal Ascot success so far, but Dettori surely claimed the ride as his after his eighth place in the Saval Beg, ensuring that Ryanair return flight wasn’t for nothing.
Before the closing Queen Alexandra and Frankie’s last ever Royal Ascot ride, a mare he did ride at York’s Dante meeting was Free Wind and she could go for the Hardwicke, while the aforementioned July Cup possible, Kinross, who won the Champions Sprint under Dettori last October, looks a big player in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes.
How’s Frankie’s Royal Ascot shaping up, then? In the words of Larry David; pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.
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