IT’S horses like Stradivarius that help to keep Frankie Dettori young – and racegoers demanding a flying dismount after every big race success.
Now 47, and the fifth winning-most Flat jockey of all-time, no one is better on the big stage and, once again, he did not disappoint on the Knavesmire.
And Dettori harbours hopes of landing the Ascot Gold Cup after conjuring a winning tune out of Stradivarius in yesterday’s Yorkshire Cup.
The final day highlight of York’s Dante meeting, Dettori treated his opponents with near contempt as he won this prestigious prize for a fifth time.
As his rivals came under pressure, the four-year-old Stradivarius had sufficient in hand that the victorious rider had time, a furlong out, to look for non-existent dangers. Last season’s Doncaster Cup winner Desert Skyline was second with Call To Mind third for The Queen.
With last year’s Ascot Gold Cup hero Big Orange on the injury sidelines, Dettori’s confidence does not, on this showing, appear to be misjudged.
“He’s a star – it’s very rare you get a stayer with a turn of foot, but that is what he has got. It’s a deadly combination,” eulogised Dettori whose win at Ascot a week earlier on Stream Of Stars was the 3,112th of his career.
“It is a great weapon to have over this distance and he’s a force to be reckoned with now.”
Third in last season’s St Leger and only a length behind Order Of St George at Ascot on Champions Day, Stradivarius is set to renew rivalry with Aidan O’Brien’s stout stayer in the Gold Cup next month.
Only Sir Gordon Richards (4,870), Pat Eddery (4,633), Lester Piggott (4,493) and Willie Carson have ridden more winners than Dettori who said of Stradivarius: “He is the young pretender in the Gold Cup, with fresh legs, and he’s on the way up.”
Even though mundane midweek meetings no longer motivate Dettori more than three decades after winning his first race in Britain, he has a different mindset at higher-profile fixtures like York and is clearly at ease riding for trainer John Gosden who has been so integral to the jockey’s longevity.
Their mutual respect is self-evident. They teamed up to win the 2015 Epsom Derby with Golden Horn and, in Enable and Cracksman, they’ve already enjoyed countless big race successes with the prospect of further triumphs to come form and fitness permitting.
It was their second high-profile win of the week following Coronet’s Middleton Stakes triumph while Gosden also won the fetaure Dante Stakes with the Oisin Murphy-ridden Roaring Lion.
As for Stradivarius who is named after the famous violin, the trainer said: “That was a proper test first time back and I haven’t been working him like that, I can assure you. I couldn’t be more happy. He’s bred by his owner (Bjorn Nielsen) and it’s important these people have success.”
Looking forward to Ascot, he added: “I promise you I can’t practice over two and a half miles (Gold Cup trip) at home, so the answer to if he will stay we’ll find out when they turn for home.
“We’ll go for the Gold Cup, but it’s uncharted territory. He switches off and the freshness is out of him, so if you relax and switch off you’ve got a chance. It was a tough race, they went hard.”
Like Gosden and Dettori, it was also a meeting to remember for Settrington trainer John Quinn and jockey Jason Hart.
Victorious on Thursday with Royal Ascot prospect El Astronaute, they have another exciting prospect in Signora Cabello.
A clear-cut winner of yesterday’s Marygate Stakes, the two-year-old is now on track for the prestigious Queen Mary Stakes at next month’s Royal meeting.
Several youngsters arrived defending unbeaten records in the five-furlong Listed affair, but it was the daughter of Camacho who came home strongest of all.
Only fourth on her debut at Beverley, she made the long journey down to Bath last time out where she prevailed in an astute piece of placement by the shrewd trainer.
“She won well at Bath and has blossomed since then,” said a delighted Quinn.
“She’s got a great pedigree and there’s no reason not to go (Royal Ascot). She’s won on merit.”
He added: “We’ve always liked her. She was unlucky on her debut at Beverley – she was stuck in the stalls for eight minutes - and then she won well at Bath, which was a strong race. She’s quite a smart filly. Next stop the Queen Mary.”
Meanwhile Mark Johnston says the Irish Guineas is on the cards for Threading who was a wide-margin winner of an incident-packed Fillies’ Stakes.
Victorious in last year’s Lowther Stakes at the Ebor festival, William Buick’s mount returned to form in a race that saw Awesometank and Sheikha Reika withdrawn at the start.
“I think her performance was impressive, she got down low and quickened up well,” said Buick. “I know the race wasn’t a strong indication if she would get a fast-run mile, but she could do no more than that.”
Johnston concurred with the Middleham trainer suggesting that Newmarket’s undulations may explain Threading’s disappointing runs at the end of last season, and again last month.
“I’m relieved, really. We never wanted to blame the track for her two performances at Newmarket, but maybe we will have to watch those two races again now,” he reported. “The race fell apart at the start, but the second horse (Dance Diva) is highly rated and she (Threading) pulled well clear. She’s back, and William said she was very relaxed all the way. The Irish Guineas is the first one we’ll think about.”