With a book of rides that will be the envy of almost all his colleagues in the weighing room at Royal Ascot next week, Frankie Dettori has nominated Stradivarius in the Gold Cup as the one he is most looking forward to.
Dettori may be the elder statesman these days – but the Italian has never had it so good, and his standing is as high as ever.
Fresh from his 18th Classic victory on Anapurna in the Oaks a couple of weeks ago, Dettori will be used by training behemoths John Gosden, Sir Michael Stoute and Dermot Weld at the Royal meeting.
He even had a ride for Aidan O’Brien in the Derby, suggesting his star is burning brighter than ever at the grand age of 48.
Stradivarius won the Gold Cup last year, along with a one million pound bonus for winning the races which comprised the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million.
After a winning introduction at York in May, Gosden’s chestnut certainly sets the standard and will be bidding for his seventh successive win.
“He is doing very well and is very fresh. He has become the people’s favourite horse,” said Dettori.
“The great thing about him is that he wears his heart on the sleeve, and he never goes down without a fight and people appreciate that. He is the one I’m looking forward to riding. Every year new horses are coming along, and everyone is there to have a shot at the title, so let’s see what happens.
“Bjorn Nielsen’s (owner) priority is to win a second Gold Cup. The million, we will only think about if we get to the last leg.”
Stradivarius provided Dettori with a sixth success in the Gold Cup, and he admits it holds a special place in his affections.
“The Queen only comes down to give the trophy out for the Gold Cup and Diamand Jubilee, so it is an honour to receive the trophy from her,” he said.
Gosden and Dettori had high hopes for last year’s Champion Juvenile Too Darn Hot this season, but for one reason and another it has not quite happened for him to date.
While many would be satisfied with second-place finishes in the Dante at York and Irish 2,000 Guineas, those closest to the colt feel he is capable of much more.
“We’ve been unfortunate, because we’ve had to rush to get him on a racecourse,” said Dettori referring to his setback early in the spring.
“We tried the Dante. But he didn’t stay, and that was perhaps a lack of fitness.
“We tried the Irish Guineas – and he was not last, he was second. I feel I’ve not got him where I want him to be (yet).”
On Wednesday Dettori teams up with Sir Michael Stoute to ride Crystal Ocean in what is shaping up to be the race of the week, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. He is a very versatile horse and likes Ascot. He has had two runs and two wins,” he said.
“I’m very pleased to pick up the ride on him. I rode him yesterday, and he is great shape and he is a great horse.”
In Tuesday’s opener, the Queen Anne Stakes, the jockey teams up with an old acquaintance in Dermot Weld’s Hazapour.
“Dermot Weld is very pleased with him, and he booked me a while ago, so it was always the intention to ride him,” he said.
“I rode him in the Derby last year, and it was obvious he didn’t stay. Bringing him back to the mile looks to have helped.”