Racing: Best can be magnificent on Dettori's anniversary

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes attracts Ireland's much-vaunted Hawk Wing but opening day marred by a dangerous surface
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The Independent Online

It is hard to get away from Frankie Dettori in the sport of racing, or even the sport of shopping for that matter when you see the little man's face in supermarkets beaming from the packaging of pizza and ice cream, presumably just how momma used to make it.

There are those who believe Dettori does not ride often enough these days to hone his natural talents, that the showbiz has taken over from the athletic pursuit which propelled him on to the stage in the first place.

It is today, however, that we remember the afternoon which made the Italian as a jockey, as an athlete across the broad spectrum, the afternoon when he rode seven consecutive winners on one of Britain's most competitive race cards.

This is, to the day, the sixth anniversary of the Magnificent Seven, when Dettori's accumulator came in at just over 25,000-1. He has at least given himself every prospect of a repetition by organising a ride in each race. Now all he has to do is win on every one of them.

"The chance of another seven is a 300-year thing," he said yesterday, "but I've got some good rides and let's hope for a good day. The big race is the most important thing."

The big race is, though, a disappointment. The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is supposedly the greatest all-aged mile race in Europe, a Group One contest which regularly produces Europe's champion miler. This year, that vacancy is already taken. The envelope has been opened and Rock Of Gibraltar's name was on the card.

The heir to Brigadier Gerard, Warning and Dubai Millennium will come from just five runners, one of them a pacemaker. Sholokhov, who will blast off largely for the benefit of Hawk Wing, will have to go into therapy at the end of the season. The poor old devil, who ran in the St Leger last time, cannot know if he is coming or going.

Ballydoyle's Hawk Wing will be long odds-on but this is a contest which intermittently likes to deliver a surprise. Twelve months ago the pacemaker was actually successful when Summoner led home Noverre, who misses today's race after a last-minute setback. There have been other shockers like 66-1 Maroof in 1994 and, for those of us who have to be helped on with their trousers in the morning, there is the memory of Buzzards Bay at 50-1 in 1982.

The word from Godolphin is that Best Of The Bests (next best 4.20) will take over at the front when Sholokhov has had enough, and then try to run the will out of Hawk Wing. Given that the latter may have been eroded by some top-level assignments already, Dettori's mount is a passable alternative.

Regardless of the historical quality of the QEII this is a considerable day for the racing aficionado. There are seven live races on Channel 4, including Plumpton and a debut on that particular station for Market Rasen. The BBC are more mainstream, with three from Haydock and the first five on the middle and most significant day of Ascot's Festival Of Racing.

First up in Berkshire is the Royal Lodge Stakes, which has given us subsequent Classic winners in recent years. The 1993 victor, Mister Baileys, went on to 2,000 Guineas success, while Benny The Dip, the winner three years later, subsequently pocketed the Derby.

If there is to be any successor, it it is likely to be the world's dearest yearling last year, Van Nistelrooy (2.00), whom you might consider rather expensive when he was an untried piece of horseflesh at $6.4m. Since all the zeros were written out Van Nistelrooy has won three races and, rather tellingly, been beaten last time out by Refuse To Bend in the National Stakes at the Curragh. If he is not to look a tad overpriced he must win this afternoon.

The Fillies' Mile is an even better established guide to the following season's Classics, with eight of the 28 winners and four placed horses going on to British Classic glory. This looks to be between Soviet Song and Summitville (2.35), who finished in that order in the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket last month. Since then, though, the former has had a cough and has only recently resumed training.

Victory for Summitville would herald a strange kind of celebration. It has been a rough week at the Lincolnshire yard of James Given, where one of the stable girls, Rebecca Davies, was killed on the gallops.

The bet of the day is another Dettori mount and if he has landed all the winners by the time Demonstrate steps out for the Tote Trifecta Handicap the bookmakers will be squealing like stuck pigs. Whatever has gone before, DEMONSTRATE (nap 3.40) is a tasty proposition. He has won a race of this distance here, the Buckingham Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting, and is sent out by the old handicap fox, John Gosden.