Donn's Articles » Dettori dominant again

Dettori dominant again

When you look back on Royal Ascot 2020 in years to come, the fact that the people were missing will probably not be your lasting memory.  Unless you were riding one or saddling one, you will probably remember watching on a screen somewhere and, by extension, you will probably remember mainly the sport.  Like, you will remember Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free kick on Wednesday evening, not the fact that The Kop was empty.

You will remember Battaash and Stradivarius, one a speedball over the shortest distance, the other still unbeaten over (almost) the longest.  And you will probably remember the finish to the St James’s Palace Stakes, Palace Pier getting the better of Pinatubo and Wichita in a thrilling final act.

You will remember Frankie Dettori for sure.  If Royal Ascot had a modern-times king, it would be Frankie Dettori.

The record will show that Dettori was Top Jockey again at Royal Ascot in 2020 with six winners, his second Top Jockey title in a row, his seventh in total.  The Top Jockey accolade doesn’t tend to stray too far from the top of the tree.  Between 2008 and 2018 inclusive, there were only two different winners of the award, Ryan Moore (eight) and Johnny Murtagh (three).  Between 1994 and 2005, there were four, Michael Kinane, Frankie Dettori, Johnny Murtagh and Kieren Fallon.  Between 1985 and 1993, there were only two, Steve Cauthen and Pat Eddery.  Between 1975 and 1984, again there were only two, Lester Piggott and Willie Carson.

Frankie made the headlines on Sunday.  Correctly so.  Frankie Dettori and Royal Ascot, a final day treble, top jockey at the meeting again.  It’s mainstream stuff.  They are two of the names that go beyond racing, Frankie Dettori and Royal Ascot.  Put them together, and you make an impact.  It breaks through racing’s boundaries.  Dynamite Dettori.  Frankie Fabulous.  It’s good for racing. 

You have to feel for Jim Crowley though, because the record won’t show how close he came to being crowned Top Jockey.  He ended the week on six winners too.  Dettori had four seconds, Crowley had one.  It’s like winning the league on goal difference.

Jim Crowley had his six winners in the bag going into the final day.  If he was looking over his shoulder, he was probably looking at Ryan Moore, who had four winners and fancied rides.  Dettori came from further back, an unpromising position going into the final throes: three winners from Tuesday to Friday, three more on Saturday.

There were what-ifs for Crowley too.  What if Mohaather had had a clear run through the Queen Anne?  What if Qaader hadn’t been beaten by the 150/1 shot Nando Parrado in the Coventry?  Then again, there were near misses for Dettori too: Terebellum in the Queen Anne, First Receiver in the Hampton Court.

Jim Crowley didn’t make Sunday’s headlines, but it was still a massive week for him.  He rode out of his skin all week, and his boss Sheikh Hamdan won the Leading Owner award.  All six winners were for Sheikh Hamdan.  And asked in a Racing Post interview on Thursday, would he rather have had five winners and win the Top Jockey award, or seven winners and not win it, and Crowley responded, seven winners and not win it, every time.

Murtagh magic

It seems as if every time you look up at the screen these days, a Johnny Murtagh-trained horse is either winning or going close.

Here are the stats.  There were nine flat racing days between Monday 15th June and Wednesday 24th June, and Johnny Murtagh had runners on eight of them, 29 in total. 

Of those 29 runners, 11 of them won.  That’s a strike rate of 38%.  And if you had had €1 on all his runners during that period, you would be showing a net profit of €36.16.

They haven’t been massive prices.  None of the winners were sent off at greater than 10/1.  Conversely, he had six runners during that period who were sent off at 100/30 or shorter, and five of them won.   He had 18 runners sent off at 15/2 or shorter, nine of them won and four of them finished second.  Only five finished outside the first two.

Also, the 11 winners were ridden by four different jockeys: Ben Coen (5), Shane Kelly (3), Gary Halpin (2) and Danny Sheehy (1), while Nikita Kane went very close on Trueba at Gowran Park last Wednesday, and she went close again on Lord Rapscallion at Leopardstown on Sunday.  Four of those five riders can still claim.  Opportunities abound.

Most exciting of the 11 winners?  Maybe Mirann, who appeared to win with more than the half-length winning margin in hand under Ben Coen at Gowran Park last Wednesday, from Lethal Power, formerly trained by Murtagh, with the pair of them nicely clear.  Winner of a maiden over a mile and a half in France for Alain de Royer-Dupre last July, you couldn’t have hoped for better from the Motivator gelding on his debut for his new trainer.  The handicapper raised him by 12lb for that, which was not an insignificant hike, but he could still be better than his new mark of 98.

Strange look

It’s a strange-look Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby all right.  No Epsom Derby winner, no Prix du Jockey Club winner – not that we have had one of them in a while – and the market headed by the Queen’s Vase winner. 

In a normal season, of course, by the time the Irish Derby rolls around, we have a lot more evidence about most of the horses.  This year, late June and we are still learning about the three-year-olds.  Only one of the 15 Irish Derby runners has run more than once this season.  Consequently, it’s a more open-looking race than it usually is, so don’t be surprised by a surprise result.

© The Irish Field, 27th June 2020