Racing: Doyen swoops and conquers

Royal Ascot: Record-breaking dash to glory brings Godolphin their sixth success and leaves Dettori speechless

When Frankie Dettori announces "I'm speechless," it has to be understood the statement is made only in the same sense that Imelda Marcos would declare that she's a bit short of footwear. After Doyen smashed a mile-and-a-half track record that had stood for 21 years in the Hardwicke Stakes here yesterday, the articulate Italian's initial reaction was stupefaction in the face of a performance of pure, and slightly unexpected, quality, but only momentarily. Once into his stride, he was as fluent as the four-year-old he had just ridden.

When Frankie Dettori announces "I'm speechless," it has to be understood the statement is made only in the same sense that Imelda Marcos would declare that she's a bit short of footwear. After Doyen smashed a mile-and-a-half track record that had stood for 21 years in the Hardwicke Stakes here yesterday, the articulate Italian's initial reaction was stupefaction in the face of a performance of pure, and slightly unexpected, quality, but only momentarily. Once into his stride, he was as fluent as the four-year-old he had just ridden.

Doyen's six-length annihilation of High Accolade, courtesy of a top-class change of gear in the short straight, launched him straight to the top of the season's middle-distance rankings, at least in bookmaker perceptions.

He has overtaken the Derby hero North Light as favourite for the great midsummer showpiece back here next month, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. The Hardwicke Stakes is a Group 2 contest, but Doyen's display looked like a Group 1 performance, and was duly accorded one of the famous flying dismounts that his rider usually reserves for top-level victories.

It was a sixth success of the Royal week at his favourite course for Dettori and the Godolphin team. Doyen was aided and abetted by his pacemaker Songlark, who was taken on by Systematic for the lead from the off, and the pair were still clear on the turn in.

"Songlark came off the bridle a bit early for me," Dettori said. "I didn't want to give Systematic too much rope, so I had to move closer a bit sooner than planned. I followed in his slipstream and picked him up going past the two-furlong marker. I was only in third gear and he just took off, whoosh! He just took my breath away.

"We thought he'd put up a good effort but not like this. He's a lovely horse, a very special horse. He takes me back to the good old days with Swain and Daylami." Considering that pair won three King Georges between them, that is no mean compliment.

Doyen, bred by Sheikh Mohammed, was trained by Andre Fabre last year and was recruited to the flagship Dubai-based operation after his fourth place in the Arc. "I remember when I first sat on him, this time last year, Andre said to me 'sit last, pull him out in the straight, go and win the race'," Dettori said. "I said 'just like that?' And he said 'yes', and he was absolutely right, he had that same burst of speed.

"In his prep for the Arc, I was the only one who managed to get close to Dalakhani, and I thought in the Arc he'd have a great chance, but he was still on the weak side then and didn't quite handle the holding ground. But he has grown over the winter into a fine big powerful horse."

Doyen opened this year's campaign with an unlucky second in the Coronation Cup. "He was only about 80 per cent then, so it was a huge effort," Dettori added. "But I am only the pilot. I steer them in the right direction and try not to make any errors. I get all the glory, but it is the team behind the scenes who do all the work. There was a lot of that during the winter and we had a progressive spring. Now this week we have been picking the fruit off the tree."

Remarkably, Godolphin horses fill four of the first five places in the King George betting. After Doyen and the Michael Stoute-trained North Light come Sulamani, fourth in Wednesday's Prince of Wales's Stakes, Papineau, the Gold Cup winner on Thursday, and Rule Of Law, the Derby runner-up.

Their trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor, is delighted with such an embarrassment of riches. "We'll see nearer the day who we think is the best," he said. "You can't keep them all in top form all the time. Doyen will, I think, improve further for this race. At Epsom he was rather hot and nervous but here he was more relaxed. Papineau is a class act at a mile and a half as well as the Gold Cup distance. Sulamani has already proved he is top-class and he is the one who would appreciate a little more cut in the ground. I think perhaps the ground was too fast for him this week."

Doyen covered the 12 furlongs in 2min 26.53sec, cutting 0.37 of a second off the previous best, set by Stanerra in the same race in 1983. Time was of the essence in the Golden Jubilee Stakes, the meeting's sprint feature. On the same day 12 months ago, Fayr Jag proved no horse could gallop the straight six furlongs here faster when he set a track record in the big handicap, the Wokingham Stakes. Upgraded in class this time round, the 12-1 shot prevailed in a tight finish by two heads from the French raider Crystal Castle and Cape Of Good Hope, the horse from Hong Kong who ran second in Tuesday's King's Stand Stakes.

Trainer Tim Easterby, based at Malton, Yorkshire, did not bother to make the journey south, preferring duty at Redcar. His father, Peter, said: "We came down mainly for Dazzling Bay in the Wokingham, but thought we may as well bring Fayr Jag as well. And we've left him in the July Cup by mistake, so I suppose we might as well run him there as well."

Dazzling Bay ran well in his race, but not quite as well as the four in front of him at the line. Lafi, the 6-1 favourite, gave Dandy Nicholls, the sprint king among trainers, his first Royal Ascot winner in beating Coconut Penang (12-1), High Reach (10-1) and Royal Storm (16-1).

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