Ascot Saturday

Qipco Champion Stakes

(Group 1)

IT was always scripted this way and despite plenty going wrong for him during the race, there was an air of inevitability about the victory of King of Steel (Roger Varian) under an inspired Frankie Dettori on what the rider billed as his final ride in the UK.

Winner of the King Edward VII Stakes here in June and a good third in the King George the following month, King Of Steel justified market support which saw him start 3/1 favourite to win the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes.

The big, imposing son of Wootton Bassett finished powerfully to run down Via Sistina (George Boughey/Oisin Murphy) to score by three-quarters of a length, with Horizon Dore (Patrice Cottier/Mikael Barzalona) two lengths further back in third.

A draw on the inside rail was no benefit to King Of Steel as he seemed to struggle to find his equilibrium in the early stages, with Dettori keen to get away from the inside, but forced back to the rail by the presence of Via Sistina on his outside as My Prospero and Royal Rhyme set a generous pace in the conditions.

Oisin Murphy deserves credit for holding an advantageous track position on Via Sistina which made Dettori’s job harder, and the mare looked the most likely winner as she moved up from last to pass the leaders on the outside in the straight. It’s likely that Murphy’s ride will not be remembered for his tactical nous, but for the fact that he dropped his whip as he sent Via Sistina to the front, and given she went under by less than a length, that might be deemed to have made the difference between winning and losing.

Too much to do

As it was, Murphy’s sweeping move belatedly allowed Dettori to navigate his own route on the outside of runners, and while King of Steel briefly looked to have too much to do, that switch allowed him to use his stride and he began to make inexorable headway in the final quarter mile, getting on terms with Via Sistina barely 50 yards from the line, but strongest from that point to win more decisively than looked likely at any stage.

“I couldn’t really get King Of Steel to travel,” admitted a relieved Dettori on dismounting. “He was stumbling and then he started to come good. I got behind Mickael who I thought was the horse to beat, then I thought, ‘Oisin is going pretty good’, so I got on his tail.

“When they kicked, they left me a little bit, but King Of Steel just found a second wind, dug deep, the crowd got behind me and we got him over the line.

“I thought the first race the crowd was good but this was another level honestly, it was incredible. A fairytale ending for me, Ascot is my home.

“It is very hard to explain what I’m feeling now. I had the same surreal moment when I won my first Group 1 with Mark of Esteem, when everything went dark.

“It is very hard to explain my feeling. I thought I would cry, but I’m too happy to cry, to be honest with you. I didn’t expect it – it’s fantastic. What a day.”


“After the race, people were singing, ‘Oh, Frankie Dettori!’. That’s one thing I’ll miss and I can’t take to America with me – I’m fairly new over there. But it’s been memorable; from the beginning of the season, it’s been tremendous.

“I wanted to finish at the top and I can’t be more at the top than that. I’m very proud of my career and this year, it’s been phenomenal. Can I go and have a beer now?”

The winner has been pre-entered in both the Breeders’ Turf and the Classic on dirt.

Trawlerman reels in Kyprios

Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 2)

FRANKIE Dettori took his final bow in Britain (no, really) at Ascot last Saturday, and got off to a sensational start when piloting 9/1 chance Trawlerman (John and Thady Gosden) to glory in the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.

The five-year-old, third in this race last year on the back of his success in the 2022 Ebor, was completing a hat-trick as he rallied to see off Kyprios (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore) by a neck.

The pair pulled 13 lengths clear of the winner’s stablemate Sweet William (Rab Havlin) with Trueshan only fourth in his bid to win this contest for the fourth time.

Rank outsider Maxident led early, notably increasing the tempo after passing the post for the first time, and while Trawlerman didn’t attempt to match strides with the leader, he pressed on himself to build up a notable lead over the rest of his rivals, led by Kyprios.

As Maxident weakened half a mile from home, Moore made his effort on the favourite, and passed Trawlerman at the three-furlong marker.

That looked a winning move, but Kyprios made his ground up very quickly, while Dettori had managed to get a breather into his mount, and as Kyprios drifted to the far rail, Trawlerman’s rider switched to his outside and found extra impetus, getting to the front close home to the delight of the crowd and the winning jockey.

Dettori said: “I heard the roar of the crowd, oh my God, it was special. I have beaten one of my greatest rivals – I have tremendous respect for Ryan Moore – on my final day; sensational!

“Ryan passed me comfortably and I thought he’s going to go and win by three lengths but, once he couldn’t get away from me, I thought well maybe there’s a little bit left here. In fairness, Trawlerman was very professional, a great, great battler.”

Dettori genius

John Gosden said: “The genius of Mr Dettori was not to throw everything at it at the head of the straight, but to come there, collect again and come back on the line. I would say that was superb judgement on his part.

“Like all of us, he doesn’t always get it perfect, but he’s a wonderful judge of pace and has great feel for the horse – as has Ryan Moore on the second - we are lucky to have them riding together.

“Without doubt he is the most phenomenal jockey I have ever put on a horse, pound for pound the greatest, and I’ve been lucky enough to leg up a lot of great jockeys over the years.”

There was a sting in the tail when Dettori picked up an eight-day whip ban for going one over the permitted number of six strikes.

Fortune finally favours Power

Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 1)

IF the first race had thrown up an unexpected result, there was a bigger shock to follow as Art Power (Tim Easterby/David Allan) made almost all to defy an SP of 40/1 in the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.

Quickly into his stride from the inside berth, Art Power looked a sitting duck when favourite Kinross (Ralph Beckett/Frankie Dettori) loomed alongside inside the final furlong and briefly put his head in front, but the winner proved determined and found extra when challenged to regain the lead in the dying strides.

Once again, the margin was a neck, with Spycatcher (Karl Burke/Clifford Lee) faring best of the rest in third, two lengths behind Kinross.

Art Power has had more than his share of bad luck in his career – exemplified by his run in the Prix de l’Abbaye last time where he anticipated the start prematurely and lost all chance.

He did much the same here, but his timing was spot-on and the couple of lengths he gained over his rivals in the first 50 yards was crucial.

Drawn in stall one, he kept largely to his draw although all the riders wanted to keep off the inside, and the fact he was isolated somewhat was probably a blessing as subsequent events showed that there was no faster strip wider on the track, and by keeping the race as simple as possible, Allan allowed Art Power to belatedly grab what had been an elusive first Group 1 victory for both horse and jockey.

Easterby said: “Art Power has had a few bad luck stories, but he’s been in the first four nearly every time he has run here. You can’t knock that. And he always runs to the line.

“We gelded him during the winter because we couldn’t get a job for him at stud. He’s a wonderful little horse. He took his gelding well, he takes it well whatever you do with him – he’s a great horse to train, no fancy gallops or all that bullshit. He’s just brilliant. I thought David gave him a fantastic ride. He jumped out and travelled. And when he travels, he is hard to beat.”

Art Power may head to Sha Tin in December for the Hong Kong Sprint, and that meeting also looks sure to be where Kinross runs next after Ralph Beckett ruled out a repeat bid for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Dettori was in trouble again – acquiring another eight-day ban for striking Kinross six times, one over the limit.