Frankie Dettori is still the man for the big day
Frankie Dettori may be fast-approaching his 50th birthday, but he proved that there is still no better big-race jockey with six winners at Royal Ascot, where a hat-trick on the final day saw him edge out Jim Crowley to be crowned leading rider at the meeting for a seventh time.
The highlights on that Saturday card came courtesy of Alpine Star and Palace Pier, who provided their rider with Group 1 success in the Coronation Stakes and the St James’s Palace Stakes respectively.
The last-named event saw Dettori at his very best in what developed into a messy affair, whilst the Coronation had been one of the few glaring omissions from his glittering CV, victory in this year’s renewal meaning he has now won all eight Group 1 races at Royal Ascot.
Incidentally, other big races around the world still to be ticked off Dettori’s bucket list include the July Cup – in which he could potentially partner Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee third Sceptical – and the Melbourne Cup, in which he was second past the post aboard Master of Reality last season.
Battaash and Stradivarius fly the flag for vintage ‘Class of ‘17’
It didn’t take much of Dettori’s remarkable skill set to win a third successive Gold Cup on Stradivarius, who was so superior to his rivals that he just needed to be pushed out in the final furlong to forge clear and land the spoils by 10 lengths.
Indeed, Stradivarius’ performance is more testament to the skill of trainer John Gosden, who has worked wonders to keep him sweet for so long. Now a six-year-old, Stradivarius achieved a Timeform rating in winning the Gold Cup of 130, the best of his career and taking him firmly into the exclusive top-class bracket on our scale.
Along with Battaash, who didn’t need to reproduce his peak rating of 136 to finally win Tuesday’s King Stand Stakes at the third attempt, Stradivarius belongs to the classic crop of 2017, one that also included the likes of Enable, Cracksman, Harry Angel, Blue Point, Crystal Ocean and Waldgeist, all of whom also achieved top-class status on the Timeform scale.
Only four other horses trained in Europe – Roaring Lion, Ghaiyyath, Pinatubo (as a two-year-old) and now Palace Pier – have reached that level since, which just goes to show how strong a group they were and how lucky we are to have the likes of Battaash, Enable and Stradivarius still in training.
Juveniles shaping up well in strange year
At the other end of the age spectrum, the six two-year-old races at Royal Ascot all had a rather different look to them this year, with the delayed start to the season meaning that the vast majority of the 84 juveniles who lined up at the meeting had made only one previous start.
That undoubtedly raised some question as to whether the form is as strong as might have been the case in previous years, but, so far as Timeform ratings are concerned, there is no strong evidence to suggest that the quality of the races was massively down compared to usual.
Admittedly, there were some obvious exceptions – Nando Parrado (who won at 150/1), for example, is the lowest-rated winner of the Coventry Stakes since 2000, while only one of the previous 12 winners of the Windsor Castle Stakes was rated as low as Tactical.
The other four races all held their own compared to recent renewals, though, and The Lir Jet certainly appeals as one to keep onside for the rest of this season. Indeed, he rates a well up-to-scratch winner of the Norfolk Stakes, with only Sioux Nation rating higher than him since 2014, and there should be even more to come from him as the season progresses.