The second day of the Royal meeting was the story of one jockey and three astonishing bursts of speed. Since the rider in question was Frankie Dettori, the story too of a big crowd going home happy.
First, Dettori sent Fantastic Light sprinting clear of Kalanisi in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes. The ground by the furlong pole was probably still smouldering 35 minutes later, as he lit the fuse on Surprise Encounter and seized control of the Royal Hunt Cup. In the final race, Dettori made it a 155-1 treble when Seba took the Chesham Stakes.
Twelve months ago, Dettori missed the entire Royal meeting as he nursed the wounds, both physical and mental, of the plane crash which killed his pilot and could so easily have ended his own life. His opening day this year was summed up by his ride on Meshaheer, the hot favourite for the Coventry Stakes, who should have won but found every pocket possible and finished only third. Yet Ascot and Dettori have an understanding, and yesterday the track where he once went through the card provided opportunities for acrobatic dismounts.
The first of them was also a demonstration of the patience and timing which separate great jockeys from journeymen. Fantastic Light was short of space with two furlongs to run, while Kieren Fallon, riding Kalanisi on Dettori's outside, was doing his best to keep it that way.
The Italian was forced to pull behind and around him, giving away a couple of lengths as he did so. But now came a reminder that even the best jockeys need the horse to match. Two lengths is a fair start to give a Breeders' Cup winner, especially one who has already hit top speed, but when Dettori asked, the response from Fantastic Light came in an instant. Within 20 strides they were level, and after half a dozen more, the prize was secure.
"Fantastic Light is getting better and better," Dettori said. "I was completely boxed in and when Kieren kicked on I thought he would nick two lengths for sure. But Fantastic Light did everything so easily on the bridle, the sign of a special horse, that I knew once I got him out and kicked he would give."
Fantastic Light ended last season as the winner of the Emirates World Series, which in theory at least made him the best horse on the planet. What it really meant was that he was one of the busiest, for while he was no match for Montjeu in last year's King George, the points he accumulated from prominent showings in the Breeders' Cup Turf, as well as races in Japan and Hong Kong in November and December, were enough to win him the title.
Thus while other horses explode to prominence, Fantastic Light has instead seemed to sidle into the spotlight. There can be no doubt now, though, that he is a serious racehorse, and a worthy favourite at a top price of 2-1 with Coral for the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes back at Ascot next month.
Most eyes were on the stands side, which had looked to hold the advantage down most of the straight mile, as the riders went for their whips in the Royal Hunt Cup. Again, though, it was Dettori who burst clear, as Surprise Encounter, an 8-1 chance, completed his double.
"We wondered whether being drawn on the far side would be a problem," Ed Dunlop, Surprise Encounter's trainer, said, "but it seemed to help. I'd love to go for the Bunbury Cup now."
Seba, who brought up Dettori's treble, was squeezed through two narrow gaps, but his rider survived a stewards' inquiry and kept the race.
Aidan O'Brien saddled his third winner of the meeting when Mozart, in the colours of Michael Tabor, landed a gamble in the Jersey Stakes. He was immediately cut from 25-1 to 4-1 for the July Cup at Newmarket next month, but even that could not keep the punters at bay, and he is now 3-1. "This horse has been working unbelievably," O'Brien said. "I've never seen a horse with the pace this horse has been working with."
Queen's Logic gave trainer Mick Channon his second win in the Queen Mary Stakes, denying O'Brien's Sophisticat. Produced near the quarter-mile pole by Stephen Drowne, Queen's Logic scored by half a length. Both Queen's Logic and Sophisticat are 25-1 with the Tote for the 2002 1,000 Guineas.Reuse content