Things We Learned » Jockeys for courses

Jockeys for courses

They talk about horses for courses.  They don’t really talk about jockeys for courses.

It is not for nothing that you associate certain riders with certain courses more than others.  Richard Hughes with Goodwood, Pat Smullen with Galway, Jamie Spencer with Ascot. 

Frankie Dettori with Ascot.

And it probably isn’t just the track that lights Dettori up.  It’s as much the occasion as it is the track.  Royal Ascot, British Champions Day.  They’re his Ascot meetings.  And he lit up Royal Ascot on Thursday.  It may have been just a coincidence that D-Day (Dettori Day) coincided with a weather lift, that umbrellas on Wednesday were superseded by parasols on Thursday, but when Dettori shines at Ascot, everything seems to be a little brighter than it usually is.

There was a sense of déjà vu all right.  Like, when A’Ali won the first and Sangarius won the second, you started to think about 28th September 1996.  Wall Street and Diffident and Mark of Esteem, and people said, he couldn’t could he?  Racing commentators started to talk about the possibility of a Dettori six-timer in the same way as snooker commentators talk about the possibility of a 147 in the early stages of a potential maximum break. 

That’s five reds now and five blacks. 

Then Star Catcher won the Ribblesdale and, la piece de resistance, Stradivarius won the Gold Cup.  Four out of four, and you started to scramble around to see what were the chances.  By then, Turgenev, a 16/1 shot in the morning, was 7/2 for the Britannia, a 28-runner handicap, and Questionare, a 12/1 shot in the morning, was 2/1 for the King George V Stakes.  A 220/1 double had become a 12.5/1 double.

It looked like it was on too when Turgenev hit the front in the Britannia.  It looked like he wasn’t going to be caught, he traded at 1.36 in-running.

In the end, it was ‘only’ a four-timer, but still, it was special.

Tudhope top notch

The fact that Frankie Dettori claimed the riding accolades and the top jockey’s armband on Thursday means that Danny Tudhope’s exploits earlier in the week may not get the attention that they deserve.

Tudhope had just three rides at Ascot on Tuesday: Lord Glitters, on whom he won the Queen Anne, Addeybb, on whom he won the Wolferton Stakes, and Soldier’s Call, on whom he finished third in the King’s Stand.  And he had just two rides on Wednesday, Move Swiftly, who won the Duke of Cambridge, and So Beloved, who ran well from a low draw in the Royal Hunt Cup. 

Three winners from just five rides at Royal Ascot saw Tudhope sit joint top of the leading riders’ table with Ryan Moore on Wednesday evening.  Tudhope couldn’t add to his Royal Ascot tally on Thursday, however, as he was at Ripon, where he won the Slingsby Gin Handicap on the William Haggas-trained Faylaq. 

Tudhope is not just a top notch rider in the north, he is a top notch rider full stop.  He has a great relationship with David O’Meara, and it is obviously a significant positive that William Haggas uses him as often as he does.  They’re talking about the jockeys’ championship this year, Oisín Murphy or Silvestre de Sousa.  Tudhope may not quite match those two in terms of the volume of rides that he will get, but he is operating at a strike rate of 24% and a level stakes profit of around €25, and he could yet be a championship contender.  

Draw factor

It appeared that you really wanted to be drawn high on the straight course at Ascot on Wednesday.  The first three home in the Queen Mary Stakes emerged, respectively, from stalls 25, 18 and 23.  The first four home in the Royal Hunt Cup raced, respectively, from stalls 21, 18, 32 and 25.  And the first three home in the Windsor Castle Stakes raced from stalls 24, 22 and 23, the three highest stalls. 

If you had been paying attention, you could have got the Trifecta up in the Windsor Castle.  It paid £1,272.70.  Even if you had done it ‘all ways’, that would have been a 210/1 winner.

High numbers may have been favoured on Thursday as well, when four of the first five home in the Britannia raced in the stands-side group.

Horses who ran well from low draws include Liberty Beach in the Queen Mary, Kynren and Roc Angel in the Hunt Cup, Symbolize and Summer Sands in the Windsor Castle and Awe in the Britannia Handicap.  Those horses can probably be marked up at least a little on the bare form of what they achieved, and they may be under-rated when they race next. 

O’Brien accolades

Aidan O’Brien was claiming the Royal Ascot accolades again.  At the time of writing, he had four winners on the board, two more than John Gosden and William Haggas and Sir Michael Stoute, all on two. 

All four winners were significant too.  Not that a Royal Ascot winner is really ever insignificant, but there was a particular relevance to all four Ballydoyle winners between Tuesday and Thursday.  Arizona, for starters, catapulted himself to the top of next year’s 2000 Guineas market when he won the Coventry Stakes.  Southern Hills provided his sire Gleneagles with his first black type winner when he won the Windsor Castle Stakes.  South Pacific led home an Aidan O’Brien-trained 1-2-3 in the King George V Stakes.

And Circus Maximus was an unusual winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes.  Not because he was trained by Aidan O’Brien, but because he came via the Derby.  Winner of the Dee Stakes, sixth in the Derby, winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes.  You don’t win the St James’s Palace Stakes after running in the Derby.  Okay, so Dawn Approach did so in 2013, and Marju did it in 1991, but ordinarily, you don’t.  This was extraordinary. 

Quiz time

Q. In what year was Frankie Dettori last crowned top jockey at Royal Ascot?

A. 2004.  Honestly.  That’s 15 years ago.

 © The Irish Field, 22nd June 2019