Racing: Soviet Song to steal Dettori's limelight at Ascot curtain call
Saturday 25 September 2004
It has been quite a season and quite a week for Frankie Dettori, who has been out among his public to alert us all to the fact that his autobiography is in all good bookstores (presumably on the lowest shelf in case his colleagues want to buy one).
Dettori has been on the television more surely than post-holiday dust, hawking his ware cross-channel with Natasha Kaplinsky and Fern Britton, one of whom apparently is Britain's sexiest presenter, the other "the best loved", signing books in swish metropolitan hotels and, last evening, attending Ascot's finale dinner as guest of honour.
The clue to this all is in the name of yesterday's dining location. Dettori is in possession of a luminous character and level of ability that has always guaranteed him a prominent role in racing, but nothing would quite be the same (and the publishers have diligently noted this) without the Italian's feat at this Ascot meeting in 1996. No one before or since has ridden all seven winners on a card.
Dettori's great skill was that he managed his unique compilation not at a bush track or on a blustery Monday, but on one of the most colourful days in the racing calendar. Theatre, we have come to learn, he can do quite well.
As he hunts down another championship in the growling opposition of Kieren Fallon, Dettori believes, without resort to false modesty, that he is riding as well as at any time in his life. Even he, however, concedes that a repeat seven-timer is unlikely, though the fact that he does not ride in one race today is probably the main driver to that thought.
Such is the glory of today's card that just one win would make it a day to remember. If Frankie starts firing them in, he might bring the stands down, which would at least save Ascot a considerable sum as they embark on demolishing the place after tomorrow's action.
The hub today, though there are some fantastic spokes as well, is the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Brigadier Gerard, Kris, Warning and Dubai Millennium added to their greatness in this race and Markofdistinction's success here in 1990 represented Dettori's first Group One and one of 37 winners he has accumulated at the meeting.
This afternoon, Dettori partners Refuse To Bend, who did a rather shocking send-up of his name last time in the Sussex Stakes, limping home 11th and last. "He was pulling, I couldn't get him to settle, we went flat out and died," the jockey said yesterday. "It was a disaster.
"He won't do that again. We are running a pacemaker [Blatant] and I imagine I will try to get him into a prominent position early on. As he stays a mile and a quarter, he is going to appreciate a good test at a mile."
It will, however, be rather difficult for Refuse To Bend to get a prominent position at any stage with his low draw. Rakti and Haafhd are better treated at the stalls, but the former is in sharp territory back at a mile, while the latter is beginning to compile question marks as much as form figures.
The force then appears to lie with Soviet Song (4.10), three times a Group One winner this year and one which knows how to win a big race at this meeting. James Fanshawe's filly likes to come off the pace and will need all Johnny Murtagh's needle-threading expertise to get through. "In a race like this you obviously need plenty of luck in running," the Newmarket trainer said. "There are going to be plenty of hard-luck stories and I just hope I'm not telling one of them."
Classic ante-post lists are likely to get a jiggle after the Royal Lodge Stakes and Fillies' Mile. The colts' adventure, the opening race, should get the bookmakers atrembling as the Dettori-ridden Perfectperformance (1.55) is the likely winner.
The Fillies' Mile is tight and the overall form queen is probably Barry Hills's Maids Causeway. She has the beating of Playfulact (nap 2.30) on their running at Doncaster this month, but there was something quite compelling about the way John Gosden's filly repelled boarders that day. She could win an Oaks as well as this.
The draw will be of significance in the Diadem Stakes and the berth of The Tatling (3.00) should offset his penalty. The following contest is as close as you can get to a pattern race while still a handicap. Luca Cumani is no fool in this area, or any other, and his name allied with the progressive form of Ettrick Water (next best 3.35) is persuasion enough.
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