“YES”. Frankie Dettori’s one-word shriek as he ran from the stewards room after Colour Vision’s triumph in the Ascot Gold Cup was confirmed showed how much this prestigious win meant to the out-of-sorts Italian.
It was a victory made even more ironic by Colour Vision, trained in North Yorkshire last year by Mark Johnston before switching to Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, narrowly holding off Opinion Poll and young French rider Mikael Barzalona whose emergence has led to fevered speculation about Dettori’s own future.
Even with the assistance of a translator in the stewards’ room, Barzalona clearly looked embarrassed in the inquiry room – he knew there would have been uproar if Ascot’s favourite son, who treated the Queen and others to a flying dismount, had been denied a big race triumph despite the rivals twice clashing in the closing stages.
That the winning margin was as great as half-a-length, and not shorter, was probably pivotal in a race that was slowly run because of the rain-softened ground – Colour Vision’s time was 25 seconds off the course record – and which saw last year’s victor Fame and Glory fail to land a blow.
The race looked briefly to be a rerun of last year’s jockey championship as Paul Hanagan’s Neeham and Silvestre de Sousa on the Johnston-trained Gulf of Naples – the eventual fourth – upped the tempo.
However, in the home straight, the race developed into a dual between the two Godolphin pretenders, with John Oxx’s Doncaster Cup winner Saddler’s Rock a creditable third.
Inevitably, the post-race celebrations revolved around Dettori’s future rather than his 46th Royal Ascot victory – the winning-most record among current jockeys.
The 41-year-old has clearly felt aggrieved by Godolphin’s decision to use Barzalona or the aforementioned de Sousa, even though they are the riders toiling all week at the minor meetings and getting to know Sheikh Mohammed’s string on the racecourse while the Italian concentrates on the major meetings.
Tellingly, Dettori’s post-race remarks showed renewed focus – apt given Colour Vision’s name – and an acceptance that he does have a battle on his hands if he is to retain his pre-eminence rather than drift into a gradual decline.
Asked if he felt the victory re-established his seniority within the Godolphin riding ranks, Dettori said with a smile: “No. We’ll have to prove it in the next one – you only remember the last one.
“Me and Mickael are good friends but when you are out there, you are by yourself and you want to win for yourself.”
Asked to comment on the speculation about Dettori, Sheikh Mohammed said: “I don’t care, I have my own ideas. I know how good Frankie is and we do need more than one jockey for Godolphin.”
Of Dettori and Barzalona, he added: “They are two good jockeys. Frankie is great and Mickael is coming up this year.”
Though Dettori’s fifth win in the two-and-a-half mile Ladies Day highlight, he is still nowhere near Lester Piggott’s all-time record of 11 triumphs in this race.
Even the Italian will struggle to beat that record – but one person not surprised by Colour Vision’s victory was Johnston who trained the horse last year, winning the Phil Bull Trophy at Pontefract in October, before the switch to the yard of Godolpin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
Johnston accepts that he will invariably lose many of his established performers to Godolphin.
“I said a year ago that horse (Colour Vision) would win the Gold Cup and he has done,” said the trainer who then saddled Fennel Bay to win the finale, the King George V Stakes, under an inspired Joe Fanning.
It was the fourth time that the Middleham trainer has won the handicap in 10 years. He added: “It gets more of a relief every time. It was beginning to look like a blank week so it’s fantastic to get one in the bag. I’m delighted for Joe, nobody deserves it more. If he’s not the best jockey in Britain he’s certainly the most underrated.
“It was a fantastic ride from a bad draw. We didn’t really think the horse would get the trip, but he was given a brilliant ride.”
Meanwhile, Princess Highway will tackle the Irish Oaks after emulating her dam Irresistible Jewel in storming to victory in the Ribblesdale Stakes.
The disappointment was York’s Musidora winner The Fugue who was then a very unlucky third in the Epsom Oaks.
Second yesterday, trainer John Gosden said the William Buick-ridden filly, owned by composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber and bred by the musician’s wife Madeleine, was hindered by the soft ground and will now have a break before reappearing in the Yorkshire Oaks at York’s Ebor meeting in August.
However, nothing was going to detract from Dettori. This was his day – and there will be plenty more like them if he retains the desire. Yes, we know he can ... but it’s up to him. End of story.
Royal Ascot: Day three winners
2.30: Reckless Abandon (4-1). A first Royal Ascot winner for Adam Kirby. The Clive Cox-trained Doncaster winner hung violently to left before narrowly landing the five furlong Norfolk Stakes. A potential star once steering issues resolved.
3.05: Princess Highway (17-2). Trainer Dermot Weld and jockey Pat Smullen land the Ribblesdale Stakes a decade after landing the race with Irresistible Jewel.
3.45: Colour Vision (6-1). A fifth Ascot Gold Cup win for Frankie Dettori, he survived a stewards’ inquiry to win the race that he first landed 20 years ago aboard Drum Taps.
4.25: Fast Or Free (6-1 fav). Champion jockey Ryan Moore wins the Britannia Stakes for Yorkshire-born trainer William Haggas. Moore rode the winner’s sire. Notnowcato, to Juddmonte International success in 2006.
5.00: Energizer (15-2). The first German-trained winner at Royal Ascot when registering a comfortable victory in the Tercentenary Stakes thanks to a confident ride by Adrie de Vries.
5.35: Fennel Bay (12-1). A third winner this week for Yorkshire after Middleham trainer Mark Johnston and jockey Joe Fanning land the King George V Stakes.