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.
Suffering the anguish of seeing his beloved Stradivarius beaten in the preceding Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, the popular 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, and after hearing of his trusted ally reaching such a landmark he had nothing but praise.
He said: “It is an extraordinary achievement. He is riding as well as ever. He was a bit downcast after the Long Distance Cup, but he put in a great ride there as he looked like he wasn’t going to win for a bit.”
Donnacha O’Brien ensured he made the most of Ryan Moore being in Australia, as he steered his father Aidan’s Kew Gardens 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 O’Brien, 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.
“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 claimed the Qipco Champion Stakes.
O’Brien junior added: “It is fantastic and I’m very lucky to be riding horses like these. It was nice to get the job done aboard her today.
“It’s a big day and I’m very lucky to be in this position.”
Injury may have dented Silvestre de Sousa hopes of retaining his champion jockey crown, but the Andrew Balding-trained Donjuan Triumphant ensured what has been tough season ended on a positive note when landing the Qipco British Champions Sprint.
De Sousa said: “It has been a difficult year with the injury recovering. It is nice riding nice horses and when they deliver on the big days, it is special.”
The win was particularly noteworthy as it was a first Group One for King Power Racing, whose founder Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha tragically died in a helicopter crash a year ago.
De Sousa added: “I wish he could have been here to seen it, as this was the place he liked to have winners.
“It has been very emotional, but that’s what we are looking for – Group winners.”
Though another stint in Hong Kong will be the immediate focus for De Sousa, he is eager to wrestle back his crown from Oisin Murphy and secure title number four next season.
He added: “I’d love to if I’m in a position, I’m concentrating on my job at the moment but I would love to win another one.”