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Image: David Cormack
Stradivarius has gone back to back in the Ascot Gold Cup at Royal Ascot

It’s nearly 23 years since Frankie Dettori went through the card at Ascot and recorded his famous ‘Magnificent Seven’ but bookies still haven’t forgotten the bashing they took that day and they were trembling once again as Dettori took the opening four races on Gold Cup day, including the big race itself on Stradivarius.

Dettori’s day started with a win on Simon Crisford’s A’ali in the Norfolk Stakes and he quickly followed up by taking the Hampton Court Stakes on Sir Michael Stoute’s Sangarius. By the time the third race came along punters were piling onto Dettori and his mount Star Catcher was backed into 4/1 second favourite. Frankie made no mistake on the improving filly, making ground gradually in the latter part of the race to win comfortably by one and a half lengths.

Next up was the big one, the Gold Cup, and Dettori’s mount Stradivarius was defending the crown he won last year when on his way to landing a £1 million bonus offered to any horse who could win the four premier staying races in one season. He was now unbeaten in his last 6 runs and there was plenty money for him as bookmakers, taking no chances, started him as the Even money favourite.

The 2018 Derby runner up Dee Ex Bee was the one expected to give him most to do and when the race got under way Dee Ex Bee’s jockey Silvestre De Sousa went straight to the front, determined to dictate the pace. Outsider Master Of Reality raced in second with Dettori keeping close tabs on the leader on Stradivarius, tucked on the inside saving ground in third.

In the home straight, as things started to get serious, Dettori may have regretted being on the inside as he found himself hemmed in briefly behind the front pair with Aidan O’Brien’s St Leger winner Capri ranging up on his outside. Dettori switched left and eased the O’Brien horse across to make enough space to get through. At this point Dee Ex Bee had started to falter and the 66/1 shot Master Of Reality, trained by Melbourne Cup winning trainer Joseph O’Brien, hit the front.

But now that Stradivarius had a clear run he started to get into top gear and he quickly drew alongside and then went past Master Of Reality. The crowd erupted as Dettori drove the staying superstar to the front and quickly sealed the result, drawing a length clear of a rallying Dee Ex Bee at the line. Master Of Reality faded in the last 100 yards but ran a fine race in third while last years Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter stayed on well in fourth, making good late ground but never looking like he was going to trouble the leading trio.

After the race a jubilant Dettori told reporters “What an amazing horse he is. He got me out of trouble, he’s a horse for the big occasion and I love him dearly, the people love him.”
Trainer John Gosden admitted that it had been a difficult race to watch saying afterwards, “He rode a beautiful race. He was held in there by Capri, then he saw the light and Capri went for his run and Frankie managed to wriggle through and it was noted in commentary that he was in a rather tricky position.” He also paid tribute to the horse, “the horse is very classy. It is not his favourite ground, as he is a much better horse on top of the ground, but he has just shown his style and he can quicken on that ground. Full marks to a remarkable horse…”

The bookmakers were now quaking at the prospect of Dettori going through the card with Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield saying the Gold Cup result had been “horrific’’ for his firm and that if Dettori were to win the next two races it would be the worst day in the firm’s history.

Dettori’s mount in the fifth race, Turgenev, who had been a 14/1 chance in the morning, was now 7/2 favourite for the Brittania Handicap. And, for much of the race, it looked like the impossible could be on the cards. As they came towards the furlong pole Frankie pushed Turgenev into a three length lead and the crowd in the Ascot stands went wild. But, as they entered the last half furlong, Turgenev started to empty and Biometric, trained by Ralph Beckett, surged past in the final sixty yards to leave the bookmakers breathing a large sigh of relief.

So, the Royal Ascot six-timer was not to be, but Dettori had given the large crowd, who were enjoying the summer sunshine, a memorable day’s excitement and, along with Stradivarius, had provided a thrilling spectacle at the end of the meeting’s premier race, the Gold Cup.

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