Frankie Dettori emphatically squashed retirement talk with a brilliant three-timer at Royal Ascot yesterday – but the best is yet to come, writes James Toney.
At 47 Dettori is showing no signs of slowing down, even if his lucrative retainer with the Qatar-based Al Shaqab Racing appears to be in its final days.
He rode three winners for John Gosden on Tuesday, as Without Parole silenced doubters with an emphatic win in the showpiece St James’s Palace Stakes, with further wins on Monarchs Glen and impressive Frankel-sire Calyx.
But it’s another progeny of the legendary Frankel that looks poised to deliver this meeting’s most talked about moment.
Cracksman will be sent off odds-on favourite to win the feature Prince of Wales’s Stakes, part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
Europe’s top-rated horse, also trained by John Gosden, produced a storming win to claim the Champion Stakes last year but stuttered to victory at the Coronation Cup during the Derby Festival, the quirky Epsom track clearly not suiting.
But they’ll be no course, no ground and surely no rivals to his challenge today, as momentum builds towards an anticipated crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.
“The horse was a little bit at sea at Epsom. He whacked his head in the stalls and I could understand why he didn’t like coming down the hill – but remember, he still found a way to win,” said Gosden.
“I always feel he’s the type of horse who’ll do better later in the year. If we run a big race, fine, if we win, we win, if we lose, we lose. However, still the plan would be the King George and then freshen him for the Arc.
“He has breezed since Epsom and Frankie is pleased with the horse going into the race.”
Cracksman is undoubtably the top middle distance colt around. Since a third place in last year’s Derby – on a track he clearly doesn’t relish – he’s not looked back and two wins this season give further cause for optimism.
Dettori said: “I’m sick and tired of people asking me about Cracksman, he’s absolutely fine. You don’t get a rating of 136 if you don’t prove it and I’m as excited as anyone to see how he does.
“He doesn’t like Epsom, he really struggles to run downhill but he likes Ascot. I hope the beast turns up that we saw at Champions Day.”
Dettori was ruled out of Royal Ascot last year just a few hours before the first race, an injury forcing him to watch his favourite meeting from a beach in Sardinia.
The showman loves the centre stage – he milked the moment when presented to the new Duchess of Sussex by kissing her hand – and he’s now third on the all-time list for jockeys at this meeting.
With 59 winners and counting, they’d be few better than Cracksman to bring up the 60, though Wesley Ward’s American raider Chelsea Cloisters in the Queen Mary Stakes looks a live chance too.
He has now surpassed the winning rides of the legendary Willie Carson and is a strong favourite to end the week as top jockey for the first time since 2004.
“To have three winners in a week at Ascot is amazing, but to have three in one day at Royal Ascot is unbelievable,” he added.
“I love this week. It’s has been so lucky for me over the years and it’s been a great team effort. John Gosden is on fire. When an outsider wins, you know you have had a good day.
“I have some great rides to come and I’m just really looking forward to riding Cracksman in another big race – he’s the real deal.”