INSPIRED Frankie Dettori showed why he is still Royal Ascot’s number one jockey with a quite masterful ride on Galileo Gold to land the feature St James’s Palace Stakes on the opening day of the showcase meeting.
Not only did the champion three-year-old miler prove that his win in Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas was no fluke, but Dettori’s mount beat The Gurkha and Awtaad who had won the French and Irish equivalents. They had to settle for second and third respectively in this clash of Classic champions.
In prime position throughout, unlike The Gurkha who broke slowly under Ryan Moore, Galileo Gold asserted on the home turn – Dettori was hugging the inner rail – and provided the jockey with one of the most thrilling of his 53 wins at the fixture.
The Group One victory also set the record straight after Galileo Gold, trained at Newmarket by Hugo Palmer and owned by Al Shaqab Racing, suffered a slightly surprising defeat to the aforementioned Awtaad in the Irish Guineas.
“Everything went to plan. Three Guineas winners, I managed to get first run on the other two,” said Dettori.
“Hugo was so nervous (yesterday) – he made me feeling nervous when I talked to him.
“He’s a Guineas winner, a St James’s Palace winner – he’s a great horse to have.
“We had a few excuses in Ireland, but he had no place to hide (yesterday) and he’s redeemed himself.”
Delighted Palmer was fulsome in his praise of the winning horse – and rider. He said: “It was a tough challenge, but he’s the 2000 Guineas winner, and Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas is usually the best Group One of the year.
“He was given the most magnificent ride – everyone knows there isn’t a better pilot round here than Frankie. I think it’s fair to say he’s the best three-year-old colt in Europe.”
That sentiment was shared by Harry Herbert, racing manager for owners Al Shaqab Racing, who said of Dettori: “That’s as good a ride as you’ll ever see.”
Unlike previous Royal Ascots run on quick ground, stamina will be the order of the day this year because of rain-softened ground – a factor which should play to the strengths when Yorkshire challenger Clever Cookie lines up in tomorrow’s Ascot Gold Cup for Malton trainer Peter Niven and Leyburn jockey PJ McDonald.
The meeting began with America’s wondermare Tepin, victorious in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, winning the Group One Queen Anne Stakes in a thrilling finish from Belardo.
Further evidence that this is a truly international celebration of thoroughbred racing, the confidence placed in Tepin by trainer Mark Casse was never lost – and rightly so – with the five-year-old positioned perfectly by Julien Leparoux to ensure there would be no hard luck story. She will attempt to defend her Breeders’ Cup ground later in the year.
The third Group One of the day, the five furlong King’s Stand Stakes, went to Profitable for trainer Clive Cox and an emotional jockey Adam Kirby – the latter’s wife Megan had given birth to a baby boy just hours earlier.
Victorious at York last year, Profitable had the form in the book – the gelding had won his two starts this season – and never looked like being passed after hitting the front with a furlong to go.
Tearful Kirby revealed that he only rode the horse on the say-so of his wife, who was enduring a difficult labour in hospital.
“Fair play to Megan who told me to leave and go to work. She was in a lot of discomfort so it was hard to leave,” he added. “She coped all on her own so very well done to her. That’s a hard thing to do, but it is obviously a great day all round.”
Hot favourite Mecca’s Angel, ridden by Boroughbridge-based Paul Mulrennan, raced up with the pace before weakening rapidly and was ultimately bitterly disappointing.
The same could be said of Mark Johnston’s Yalta in the Coventry Stakes. The previously unbeaten two-year-old was prominent before fading in a race won by the impressive Caravaggio, who was providing Aidan O’Brien with a 49th Royal Ascot winner as a trainer.
It was a 37th success for the aforementioned Moore who rode a record nine winners at last year’s meeting. That he described the horse as “top class” after scything through unsuitably soft ground is praise indeed.
However, this was Dettori’s day.
Two years ago, his career looked to be over.
Now, buoyed by last year’s Derby win on Golden Horn and other big race wins, the Italian’s enthusiasm is infectious and he is as good as ever.