Pride came after a fall, for once. At his favourite racecourse, on the biggest day of the domestic year, Frankie Dettori's backside hit the emerald turf as he was ignominiously thrown from a skittish two-year-old on the way to the start for the opening race. Things could only get better, and they did, and how. The Italian picked himself up to notch up his 2,000th British winner on the wayward young Nightfall and then made it 2,001 on Doyen in the 54th renewal of the summer's middle-distance showpiece, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The glittering mile-and-a-half contest, with a first prize of £435,000 yesterday, has been regularly harvested by Dettori and the Godolphin team. Doyen, a four-year-old son of Sadler's Wells home-bred by Sheikh Mohammed, follows in the hoofprints of Lammtarra, Swain and Daylami. And after his scintillating three-length defeat of US raider Hard Buck, his jockey paid him the considerable compliment of judging him the best yet. "I know Daylami won by five lengths," he said. "But I was working hard on him all the way. This horse is the one that travelled the best through the race. He just took me. And he just killed them."
The perception of the quality of the field beforehand was that it was hardly vintage, but that Doyen was the one of the 11 who could emerge as a genuine superstar, and he was backed accordingly, to 11-10 favouritism. Paddock inspection confirmed the view, for if ever a horse was up for it, Doyen was. He danced round in the sunshine giving vent to his feelings with huge, fly-kicking bucks indicative not of temper but simple joie de vivre.
Despite his earlier contretemps, Dettori was delighted to see his conveyance bouncing. "All he does at home is yawn and slob about," he said. "But he knows the difference between there and here. He looked like a monument." The Godolphin pacemaker Lunar Sovereign set a steady gallop, followed by Hard Buck and Warrsan, with Doyen never far behind.
"He had never won at this level before," Dettori said, "but I knew he was a good horse, and I rode him like one. And the further we went, the better he felt. Once I was in the straight, I just kicked on and said 'come and get me'. I could hear the crowd screaming and I had to look up at the big screen to see how far I was clear."
The time of the race was ordinary, more than six seconds slower than Doyen's own record for the track, set when winning the Hardwicke Stakes at last month's Royal meeting. Hard Buck, on his first outing on a right-handed track, lost little in defeat and gallantly held Doyen's stablemate Sulamani at bay by a head. Gamut, only confirmed a runner on the fast ground a few hours before the race, came in fourth, ahead of Vallee Enchantee and the only three-year-old, Tycoon.
Yesterday was only the ninth race of his life for Doyen, who was trained in France last year and recruited to Mohammed's flagship Dubai and Newmarket-based operation during the close season. And, according to the Sheikh, the best is yet to come. "He improved a lot between his last race and this," he said, "and he is still improving. The sky is the limit now, and the world his oyster."
Dettori's love affair with this place is a matter of record and continued unabated when he used the great stage to record that landmark 2,000th winner. The Italian was a 16-year-old apprentice when he set his sequence in motion, on Lizzy Hare at Goodwood in June 1987. "I've lived here for 18 years now, and the British people have taken me to their hearts as if I was one of them," he said, after marking the occasion with his first crowd-pleasing flying dismount of the day. "I have a wonderful job, a wonderful team to work with at Godolphin and great support from my family and friends. This is a great milestone, but for a moment I thought Ascot had turned on me when I came off."
Both James Fanshawe and Cheveley Park Stud have something of an embarrassment of riches in the filly department, and the two combined yesterday to produce another exciting distaffer in two-year-old Soar, easy winner of the Princess Margaret Stakes under Johnny Murtagh and a second success in three years in the Group 3 contest for the red, white and blue silks, after subsequent 1,000 Guineas heroine Russian Rhythm. Soar, by Danzero, had chased home the best of her age and sex, Damson, in the Queen Mary Stakes at the Royal meeting here last month on her previous outing, and had no trouble paying her compliment to the Irish crack as she sprinted clear of Valentin through the final furlong. The Lowther Stakes at York next month is the next likely target.
"If you give a horse a name like hers, you always wonder whether it's tempting fate rather," said Fanshawe, who has Soviet Song and Frizzante on the Group One scoreboard this term, and earnings of £700,000. "But she has always been a real natural." Of her talented fellow-colour-bearers, Chorist (Nassau Stakes) and Chic (Oak Tree Stakes) will be out this week at Goodwood. And Cheveley Park managing director had encouraging news of Russian Rhythm, sidelined with a tendon strain since her Lockinge Stakes victory in May. "She has been trotting without any problems, so that is stage one of her recovery completed," he said. "She'll start cantering again soon."
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