Taking centre stage at Royal Ascot is nothing new for Frankie Dettori and he has high hopes of continuing that trend by lighting up this year’s meeting aboard Cracksman in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
The 47-year-old has lit up the Berkshire track many times over the years, and is counting on the John Gosden-trained four-year-old to steal the show and allow him to once again treat racegoers to one of his trademark flying dismounts.
With his effectiveness over the 10-furlong trip at Ascot proven following his devastating performance in the Champion Stakes, Dettori expects more of the same as the pair attempt to claim a sixth straight victory and fourth at the highest level.
He said: “He won the Champion Stakes at Ascot last year meeting the rising ground, and it is very exciting going back to there. If he goes there in his normal form, he is entitled to be favourite.
“He won the Champion Stakes over a mile and a quarter and he has won a Ganay on good ground, so I think the trip is fine. It is a stiff mile and a quarter at Ascot and that is pretty much what he wants.
“These races are never easy to win, but I’m going in there excited, so let’s bring it on. I can’t wait.
“It’s a very exciting time.”
While the son of Frankel will enter the race with a perfect record to his name this season, his latest success in the Coronation Cup at Epsom produced its fair share of scares, not only for his supporters, but for Dettori as well.
“He left people scratching their heads after Epsom, but he had numerous excuses,” said the Italian.
“Basically he doesn’t like to run downhill. He struggled in the Derby and he struggled the other day.
“His courage and class pulled him through, as any other horse would have downed tools and given up.
“I had my heart in my mouth at Epsom. When Silvestre (de Sousa, on Salouen) kicked around the final turn and took six lengths on me, I couldn’t bridge the gap and he was all at sea.
“Even I felt I wasn’t going to peg him back. Out of desperation I took him to the stands side and the faster ground, just to get a rail. It was only the last 100 yards when he met the rising ground he picked two lengths up.
“It was nerve wracking for me as he was long odds on and all the owners were there and we wanted the horse to do well, so we got away with it.”
Despite being one of the more senior members of the weighing room, Dettori admits he still gets the same buzz every time at the Royal meeting, which he missed through injury last year, comes around, just as he did when he first started out in the saddle.
He told Press Association Sport: “Ascot is our Olympics. There are 30 races there and it covers everything from the two-year-old division and everything distance-wise between five furlongs and two-miles-six. It is where the creme de la creme go.
“You go to the Derby and that meeting is three races – the Derby, Oaks and Coronation Cup. You go to the Guineas and it is just the two Guineas, whereas Ascot is five days of unbelievable racing.
“You start with the Queen Anne, King’s Stand and St James’s Palace Stakes, which is amazing. It has attracted interest from America and Australia, as well as other European countries.
“It is becoming pretty global and harder to win, but it’s great.
“You are getting between 50,000 and 70,000 spectators each day, which is great, but for us riders it’s the racing that makes it exciting. What adds to it is the atmosphere and the tradition with the dress code.
“I still get excited every season and when it comes around my hair stands up like Don King! In fairness, I know it’s quite difficult to say, but the whole season really is geared around Ascot.
“Owners, breeders, trainers all want to be there. You start the season thinking of Classics, but really the main ambition is to get to Royal Ascot.
“If you hit the board with a two-year-old at Ascot you’ve got a future with the back-end races and a potential Guineas or Derby horse.
“Those two-year-old races are harder to win than any race. It’s the beginning of something, then if you’ve got a really seasoned horse like Cracksman you really look forward to it, as they come into a race with a massive reputation.
“It really is everything to us.”