Frankie Dettori secures Day One Royal Ascot hat-trick
Willie Mullins scores with Lagostovegas, likely bound for Melbourne Cup
Frankie Dettori guides Without Parole to victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters
It’s 28 years since Frankie Dettori first tasted Royal Ascot success but an opening day hat-trick proved time isn’t withering his customary taste for the spotlight.
Willie Mullins struck the Ascot Stakes bullseye for a fourth time through Lagostovegas although everyone realised there was no budging the Irishman’s old Italian ally from centre-stage.
Without Parole, a 9-4 favourite, maintained his unbeaten record with a resolute victory from Aidan O’Brien’s Gustav Klimt in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
However the rumour train that earlier this month prompted Dettori to deny he was planning to retire isn’t so much parked as derailed judged especially by Calyx’s superb Coventry Stakes success.
I didn’t expect this one to win. It’s been an amazing day
Despite racing on his own on the apparently unfavoured stands rail the 2-1 favourite was too strong for Advertise and Aidan O’Brien’s highly regarded Sergei Prokofiev.
Calyx is now an 8-1 favourite for next year’s 2,000 Guineas, by which time his jockey will be 48, with several ordinary racing lifetimes already crammed in, yet presumably no intention of calling time while having such outstanding raw material to work with.
Ultimate confidence rider
That Dettori wound up the day completing the hat-trick for John Gosden on Monarch’s Glen in the Wolferton Stakes only emphasises what can happen when the game’s ultimate confidence rider gets on a roll.
“I didn’t expect this one to win. It’s been an amazing day. I missed it [the meeting, through injury] last year. I’ve been making up for it,” Dettori said.
Dettori’s flying dismounts may not be as flamboyant as they were when Markofdistinction won the 1990 Queen Anne. But the big race flair that now sees the Italian’s tally of Royal Ascot winners at 59 shows no sign of eroding and 14 years after the last of his five Leading Rider awards at English racing’s showpiece event Dettori can still command attention like no one else.
If some of that focus can be frothy then the competitor underneath the fun image was illustrated by the seven-day ban and near €5,000 fine he picked up for his use of the whip on Without Parole.
The colt combines talent with a laidback approach to life that required his jockey to all employ brute strength in addition to all his famous subtlety. The payoff was a career-defining Group One success.
“He’s a proper little horse. He’s only run four times but to do what he’s done he’s got a big future,” Dettori said of the John Gosden-trained star.
It was his stable companion Calyx that really got pulses racing, however, even though his Group Two success paled in status to Accidental Agent’s shock 33-1 Queen Anne win and Blue Point’s success for Godolphin in the King’s Stand Stakes.
There’s nothing like two-year-old brilliance to get the racing public dreaming of what might be and Calyx looks a real “could be anything” talent.
Behind the patter Dettori casts a pretty cold eye on form but even he was moved to describe Calyx as a “beautiful new talent,” adding: “It was pretty special what he did. Not many two-year-olds have that natural ability.”
The “natural ability” comment has regularly been made over the years about Dettori himself, something Willie Mullins knows better than most. The Italian was at his inspired best for the champion jumps trainer when Wicklow Brave won the Irish St Leger a couple of years ago.
This time Mullins was grateful to Dettori’s compatriot Andrea Atzeni for getting Lagostovegas (10-1) home ahead of Dubawi Fifty who in turn had a trio of other Mullins runners chasing him up.
“I thought this mare might struggle to get the trip. I don’t know what the time was but it didn’t look a very strong gallop which played into her hands,” said Mullins afterwards.
It was Atzeni who judged it to perfection though and Lagostovegas is among the stayers Mullins ultimately holds Melbourne Cup ambitions for. On the day that was in it though it was probably no harm Dettori sat the race out.