by J. Keeler Johnson
When one jockey prevails in six of the first 16 races at one of the most prestigious race meets in the world, you know you’ve witnessed a special display of dominance.
That was the main storyline on the third day of racing at Royal Ascot, where Frankie Dettori won the first four races of the afternoon to bring his royal win total to six for the meet and 66 lifetime. Let’s take a quick look back at the action on Day 3:
Without question, Frankie Dettori was the star of the show on Thursday. The popular jockey managed an almost unprecedented sweep of the day’s four group stakes races, winning the Norfolk (G2) aboard A’ali, the Hampton Court (G2) with Sangarius, the Ribblesdale (G2) with Star Catcher and the Gold Cup (G1) with Stradivarius.
Of the quartet, only Stradivarius was favored, and his determined victory in the Gold Cup was the equine highlight of the day. The sensational stayer was seeking his second straight victory in the 2 1/2-mile test, but the soft ground was considered a slight question mark, and then Stradivarius spent much of the race boxed in behind horses.
Despite these challenging circumstances, Stradivarius bulled his way out of traffic in the homestretch and somehow produced a burst of acceleration to roll past the pace-setting duo of Dee Ex Bee and Master of Reality to prevail by a length. It was another marvelous performance from the champion stayer of 2018, who has now prevailed in seven consecutive group stakes races running 1 3/4 miles or father.
“Frankie is like a player who gets to the final of Wimbledon and then raises it to another level,” marveled John Gosden, trainer of Stradivarius. “He rode a beautiful race.”
Dettori later guided Turgenev to a game runner-up effort in the day’s fifth race before finishing unplaced aboard Questionnaire in the finale.
The disappointment of the day was the scratch of Maven from the Norfolk Stakes (G2). Trained by Wesley Ward, the colt was expected to become the first horse sired by American Pharoah to compete at Royal Ascot. But after walking the course, Ward deemed the going unsuitable for Maven, and so the lone American hopeful on Day 3 of Royal Ascot withdrew before landing a single blow.
How’s the Going?
After receiving plenty of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ascot finally enjoyed clear weather on Thursday, though the impact of the earlier rainfall was still evident. The course was labeled “soft” for the first four races and “good to soft” for the last two. Just as on Wednesday, deep closers struggled to get involved on Thursday, though mid-pack runners enjoyed their fair share of success. With dry weather in the forecast for Friday and Saturday, the course should continue drying out and become more favorable to quick turn-of-foot types.
Only two races were conducted over the straight course on Thursday, with one coming out ambiguous for determining path biases since the field ran in one group down the center of the course. However, the one-mile Britannia Stakes favored near-side runners just as on Wednesday, so it seems safe to conclude you want to stay close to the stands on the straight course.
Moore, Tudhope Battle for Jockey Title
Suffice to say, Frankie Dettori’s day was sufficient to give him a clear lead in the jockey standings. With Ryan Moore going winless on Day 3, Frankie Dettori rocketed to a decisive three-win advantage, twice as many as any other jockey. With just 12 races remaining in the meet – and with Dettori scheduled to ride 11 of them – the gap might already be impossible for anyone to close.
Meanwhile, Daniel Tudhope remains tied with Ryan Moore for second place despite skipping the Thursday card at Ascot in favor of riding at Ripon, where he guided Faylaq to an effortless victory in a Class 4 handicap. He’ll be back to ride one race on Friday and four on Saturday, though all his mounts will be longshots in the betting.
Among trainers, the previously winless John Gosden picked up a double on Day 3 to move into a tie for second place behind Aidan O’Brien, who won the finale on Thursday to bring his number of victories to four. That equals the number of races O’Brien won as leading Royal Ascot conditioner in 2018, and with two days left in the meet, O’Brien still has plenty of opportunities to increase his 2019 total.
Frankie Dettori – 6
Ryan Moore – 3
Daniel Tudhope – 3
Harry Bentley – 1
Jim Crowley – 1
James Doyle – 1
Seamie Heffernan – 1
Richard Kingscote – 1
Oisin Murphy – 1
Aidan O’Brien – 4
John Gosden – 2
William Haggas – 2
Sir Michael Stoute – 2
Charlie Appleby – 1
Andrew Balding – 1
Ralph Beckett – 1
Simon Crisford – 1
Charles Hills – 1
Mark Johnston – 1
David O’Meara – 1
Ian Williams – 1
Day 4 at Royal Ascot brings the Commonwealth Cup (G1) for colts and the Coronation Stakes (G1) for fillies, in which O’Brien and Moore will team up with the heavy favorites Ten Sovereigns and Hermosa.
Enjoy the racing!