Having celebrated one magnificent seven at Ascot, Frankie Dettori was left in seventh heaven at the track again on Thursday after Stradivarius formed the centrepiece of a four-timer for Flat racing’s favourite son in the Ascot Gold Cup.
Newmarket may be where the Italian rider calls home, but it is the Berkshire track where he is so often seen at his finest – and despite being just six months away from celebrating his 49th birthday, he showed once again there is no better man for the big occasion.
Almost 23 years on from going through the card at Ascot, in September 1996, the three-times champion jockey threatened to do so once again, after steering home A’Ali in the Norfolk Stakes, Sangarius in the Hampton Court and Star Catcher in the Ribblesdale.
It was a case of saving what ended up being the best until last, after the John Gosden-trained five-year-old Stradivarius made it seven straight victories when becoming the first horse to register successive wins in the Gold Cup since Yeats landed the last of his four triumphs in 2009.
It was also a seventh Gold Cup for Dettori, who said: “The first three races were a blur. I got to race four and I thought, ‘oh please, I hope this race goes well’.
“He is an amazing horse and for a stayer he has got everything. He doesn’t know how to get beat and his heart is bigger than his body. All I have to do is get him in a good position in a fight and he does the rest.
“The roar from the crowd, you usually can’t hear it because you are involved in what you are doing, but this time I did hear it.
“It is unbelievable. If someone had have said this morning you are going to win four races, I would have laughed at them. My mind was on the Gold Cup.
“Of course it is on the same level (as the magnificent seven) as they don’t get any bigger than the Gold Cup.”
Stradivarius is just the latest in a long line of horses that feature on Dettori’s glittering CV, and like so many of those before him they have been expertly handled by Newmarket handler Gosden, who has been a mainstay by his side throughout his career.
Gosden said: “It is great, it’s those magnificent seven days again. He is a phenomenon for a kid of 48. When he rides here, he rides to another level.
“He has been at the hotel working out in the gym and he won’t come back and ride work for me. He has just stayed here concentrating. He has had the horses and they are there to do a job, but he does the job beautifully himself and I think that is the key thing.”
Confidence is a major part of being successful in any sport – as is experience, a combination that Bjorn Nielsen, owner of Stradivarius, feels has been integral to Dettori blossoming at this stage of his career.
Nielsen said: “I think confidence is a lot in any sport. Frankie had his setbacks five or six years ago and he has come back, and his second career is probably better than his first.
“Now he is riding as well as ever, riding these winners here. He has got so much confidence in these races and it gives you a lot of confidence.
“He puts the horses in a good position and he is in the right spot and he doesn’t make mistakes in these big races.”
Hitting such heights on any other occasion would normally be followed by wild celebrations – but with two days of the meeting still left Dettori will be keeping it low key for now as he turns his attention to his five rides on Friday.
Dettori added: “I will have a drink with the owner and I’m staying in a hotel with my wife, but it is again Ascot tomorrow so I’m not going to go mad.
“I don’t know what this place does to me, but it has got this magic feeling. Four in a day at Ascot is not bad.”
Twenty years ago I would have won that!
He also had time for a smile after being beaten in Turgenev in the fifth race, as he quipped: aid: “Twenty years ago I would have won that!
“He was 16-1 this morning, went off favourite and he gave me a great spin.
“I’ve had a good day so I’m not going to cry.”