FRANKIE DETTORI has made a habit of taking centre stage at Ascot – and Star Catcher ensured he did so again after becoming the 250th Group One winner of his career in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.
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Suffering the anguish of seeing his beloved Stradivarius beaten in the preceding Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, the Italian bounced back in style to secure the milestone moment.
While Star Catcher is not quite in the same league as Enable, she most certainly has a special place in Dettori’s affections, with this win also being the 18th Group One strike of a record-breaking season for the evergreen 48-year-old.
After performing his trademark flying dismount, Dettori – who numbers 19 British Classics among his haul – said: “After I won the Royallieu (on Anapurna), I thought it would be great if I can get 250 on Enable (in the Arc). It’s great to get and what a great number, it must be a European record.
“I am still a bit sour about Stradivarius, but the ground is a lot worse than we thought. I am pleased this filly won. Like you said, from crying to smiling in half an hour!
“She’s lovely, she’s tough, and I think she is going to stay in training. She is a wonderful filly and provided me with my 250th Group One and 18th season. I love her.
“She is a very good filly, that is improving. The race went to plan, but it was a slog for everyone. She had every chance of jacking it in, but she showed great guts.”
Supplying Dettori with a large number of those top-level victories in recent seasons has been Star Catcher’s trainer John Gosden who said of his trusted ally: “It is an extraordinary achievement. He is riding as well as ever.”
Donnacha O’Brien ensured he made the most of Ryan Moore being in Australia, as he steered his father Aidan’s Kew Gardens – last year’s St Leger winner – to a thrilling victory over Stradivarius, in the process announcing himself as the new kid on the block in the staying division.
It was a first Champions Day triumph for the jockey who said: “Once Stradivarius came upsides me he found another gear and knuckled down. I knew the further we were going the more chance we would have of getting him, and thankfully we got there in time.
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“He is very tough and stays very well. He is an exciting horse. It is nice scalp for him to take and it just shows what a classy horse Kew Gardens is.”
There was further success for the O’Brien father and son duo when Magical, so long in the shadow of Enable and Dettori, claimed the Qipco Champion Stakes.
The Group One races on this £4m raceday saw Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan’s Brando finish fourth to Donjuan Triumphant in the sprint.
Safe Voyage, for Malton trainer John Quinn, was then third to King Of Change in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – a race which saw David O’Meara’s Royal Ascot winner Lord Glitters back in eighth.
However there was compensation for North Yorkshire-based O’Meara when Escobar took the concluding Balmoral Handicap under Adam Kirby.
“It looked for a long way like Escobar was getting stopped, but he is a very classy horse on his day,” added O’Meara who recently saddled his 1,000th winner.
“We won this race two years ago with Lord Glitters, second last year with Escobar, and won it again this year. It is a good race for us.”