Frankie Dettori Rides 250 Group 1 Races in his Career at Ascot
Champion’s Day at Ascot is billed as the showcase and climax of the British flat racing season. This year saw four Group 1 races including the Champion Stakes over 1 ¼ miles, (10 furlongs / 2000 m middle distance) which in previous years has been won by racing greats like Frankel. The other two races on the card were a Group 2 and a top handicap. This year, the occasion was graced by H.M. The Queen.
The ground was heavy for the most part following two weeks of fairly persistent rain at the track. However, apart from the odd shower, the day was bright and fairly warm. Let’s say at this point, that the runners entered in the races this year were generally a rather below par bunch in my opinion. Of course there was Stradivarius in the long distance race, definitely the highlight of the day’s racing, but the others in my view, were a rather ‘unsexy’ group in comparison with past years. It was perhaps surprising that trainer John Gosden actually ran Stradivarius as the ground was definitely against him. Because the ground was heavy or soft to heavy in places, the form book was generally thrown out of the window. A great day out therefore for the book makers.
The races on the card is the culmination of the ‘British Champion Series’ sponsored by Qipco. There are a series of thirty races throughout the season staged at different race courses run over different distances and all are Group 1 races in their own right. There are five categories, sprint, mile, middle distance, long distance and mares and fillies.
The first race was the Group 1 Sprint. There were 17 runners, but no Battaash or other 2019 sprint winners of note. Advertise and One Master were sent off 4/1 joint favourites, and although One Master did come in second, the winner was the Andrew Balding trained Donjuan Triumphant a 33/1 outsider.
The second race was the Group 2 Long Distance Cup. Why this is a Group 2 rather than a Group 1, as are all the qualifying races for this championship, I have no idea – seems crazy to me!! Anyway, this was the race of the day with Stradivarius and the Aiden O’Brian trained and former classic St Ledger winner Kew Gardens. In ground conditions that neither liked, they were both kept at an even pace in the mid to rear division for most of the 1 mile 7 ½ furlongs, and in the straight, Kew Gardens took the lead. Stradivarius came up along side and overtook, but Kew Gardens was not going to give in and came back in a tough gallop to the finish when the 4 year old colt won literally on the nod, in fact probably not a nostril in it. The other seven runners were rather ‘out with the washing’. It was not a pretty race, but was one which showed huge toughness and commitment from both the leading horses.
Third on the card was the Group 1 Fillies and Mares Stakes. There were 12 runners in this 1 ½ mile (2400M) contest. Star Gazer, trained by John Gosden and ridden by Frankie Dettori duly obliged and were favourite to win. Star Gazer had previously won a couple of Group 1 races this year, The Irish Oaks and a Group 1 contest in France. She is by Sea The Stars. The race was important to Frankie Dettori as he passed the landmark of 250 Group 1 wins in his illustrious 29 year career.
The fourth race was the third Group 1 of the day, The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, a race over the straight mile at Ascot. The Revenant, trained in France and Benbatl owned by Godolphin vied for favouritism before the race with Benbatl being sent off at 7/2. In the race, Veracious, the Cheveley Park Stud filly, led for most of the way and went at a fair pace. She was passed by the French colt Revenant 2 furlongs out and looked to have the race in the bag when the Richard Hannon trained colt King of Changes came up on the outside to win by a couple of lengths. Another result for the book makers! The favourite Benbatl came last and never got to strike even a small blow! King of Change best performance until now was second in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May this year. He is by Farhh.
The Champion Stakes over 1 ¼ miles was another nine horse contest. The Middle Distance Championship. Unlike previous years with the likes of Frankel and last year’s winner Cracksman taking part, both winning in majestic style, this year’s renewal seemed a rather demure affair. Despite the apparent lack of headline runners, there were some interesting participants. Dierdre, trained and successful in Japan was one. Another was the Aiden O’Brian trained Magical, sent off as evens favourite, winner of the Irish equivalent race last month. The John Gosden trained Coronet was another one of interest – by Dubawi. The five year old mare was winner of six races including her only two efforts this year, both in French Group 1 races. The runners were well strung out at the end of the race, but the winner was the Magical by Galileo and trained by Aiden O’Brian. Surprisingly, this was the first time that Aiden had managed to win this race. There are only two races left in the UK Group 1 calendar which Aiden had not won, The King Stand Stakes and the Haydock Sprint Cup. The second home was William Haggas trained Addeybb and third was the Japanese runner Dierdre.
The final race of the day was the Balmoral Handicap over the straight mile. This was a 20 runner cavalry charge with Escobar being the winner ridden by Adam Kirby and trained by David O’Meara.
This was a disappointing day’s racing in our opinion. Mainly, the day seems to be trying to match the big race day’s of other countries, like the Arc day in France or the Breeders Cup days in the States, or even the World Cup extravaganza in Dubai, but it clearly failed to achieve this. Although it is a thoroughly British affair, it does fall short for such a billing. However, there is always a highlight to be had when Her Majesty The Queen attends, even if Her idiot Prime Minister is doing his best to split her beloved United Kingdom apart in a special Saturday sitting of parliament!!