Seven steps to immortality

Dream mile and dream day for Frankie Dettori as the Italian jockey goes through the card at Ascot
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The Independent Online
Racing does not get better than this. The magnificent performance of Mark Of Esteem in establishing himself as the best miler of this, or any other, year with a spine-tingling victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes here yesterday was eclipsed by the history-making exploits of the man who rode him, Frankie Dettori.

The exuberant 25-year-old Italian became the first jockey ever to ride all seven winners at one meeting and the reception given to him by his adoring public as he returned to the unsaddling enclosure on the last of them, Fujiyama Crest, was one rarely seen on a racecourse. Wave after wave of deafening cheering resounded from the stands and Dettori, as ever, did not disappoint.

For the second time in the day he executed his trademark flying dismount and a few minutes later, taken up to the balcony overlooking the winners' enclosure, flung his racing goggles into the crowd and sprayed them with champagne as racegoers ran, scampered and jostled among the industry's professionals, all wanting just to "be there".

His outstanding talent in the saddle apart, Dettori's obvious delight and enthusiasm for his job, plus his youth and good looks, make him unique among jockeys. And yesterday, e'en the ranks of Tuscany - in this case the bookmakers - could scarce forbear to cheer.

Dettori's 25,095.3-1 seven-timer, on Wall Street, Diffident, Mark Of Esteem, Decorated Hero, Fatefully, Lochangel and Fujiyama Crest will have cost their industry millions, but Ladbrokes' Mike Dillon said: "He is so popular that everyone backs him, but it doesn't matter. Dettori is the best ambassador the sport could have. This is simply a great day for racing."

David Hood, of William Hill, agreed. "It's a good job that our interim profits were announced last week, because they wouldn't look so good now. Three winners were expensive, four was dismal, five appalling, but when the sixth went in we turned off all the lights in head office. But this man is just phenomenal."

Steve Redgrave must now look to his laurels. Dettori is 8-1 with Hills to take the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award. As he carried Fujiyama Crest's saddle into the weighing room he turned to the dozens trying to pat him on the back - perhaps in the hope that his magic would somehow rub off - and said: "Don't touch me - I'm on fire." But if he was red-hot by the end of the day, he was ice-cool on the equine star of the show, Mark Of Esteem.

The big race, in which six of the seven runners were Group One winners this year, was billed as the mile championship of Europe, and as well as the glory, there was the pride of the season's trainers' championship at stake, and with it the denouement of a story with a twist worthy of any soap opera.

It was a year to the day that the acrimonious break-up between two of the game's leading players, Sheikh Mohammed and Henry Cecil, was made public at this very venue. And Mark Of Esteem, carrying the blue silks of the Sheikh's Dubai-based Godolphin operation, was the very horse that sparked the split. Ranged against him was his former Warren Place stablemate, Bosra Sham.

The elegant chestnut filly was making her first appearance since she took the 1,000 Guineas in May, a race that left her a footsore cripple, and as she swept past Bijou D'Inde and went for home a quarter of a mile out it seemed a fairytale comeback was on the cards. But stalking her was the diminutive, white-faced shape of Mark Of Esteem, and it was soon apparent Dettori had yet to release the handbrake.

In the preliminaries, the colt had appeared tense, but once the stalls opened Dettori persuaded him to relax, and sat in fourth place on a long, silk-smooth rein. And when he asked Mark Of Esteem to race, the response was the sort jockeys dream about.

The colt's acceleration was instant and blinding, the sort not often seen; the filly was not short of courage, but she had no answer. The two Guineas winners went clear; it was four lengths back to First Island, himself a Group One winner, who beat the winner's stablemate Charnwood Forest half a length, with Ashkalani a close fifth.

Dettori said: "I have never had that feeling on a horse in my life. It was a race of the highest quality, and to still be on the bridle two out means the horse is exceptional. I had to ask Mick Kinane on Charnwood Forest for a bit of room - he was beaten at the time - and I just sat and waited until the furlong pole.

"I expected Bosra Sham to tie up a bit, because she had not run for so long, but to give her credit she raced to the line."

Mark Of Esteem is now on course for the Breeders' Cup Mile in Canada next month. The colt is not the most imposing of individuals, but he has made tremendous physical progress since he scraped home in the 2,000 Guineas, and Simon Crisford, the Godolphin manager, said: "He was trained to the minute that day, but he was immature and inexperienced."

Yesterday's earnings - there were four winners altogether for Godolphin - have taken the Sheikh's man, Saeed Bin Suroor, clear of Cecil in the championship table. Bosra Sham is on course to tackle Godolphin's Halling in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket next month, and Crisford added: "Nothing is yet in the bag. There are plenty of good races to come and it will go down to the wire. And it makes great theatre for the racing public."

Racing results, page 26

The history maker, race by race

DETTORI'S magnificent seven ranks only behind an 11-timer by Sir Gordon Richards in 1933. But Sir Gordon's 11-in-a-row came at two meetings on consecutive days. Only Alec Russell, at Bogside in 1957, had previously gone through the card - and that was only six races - this century.

2.00: Dettori opens account on Godolphin's Wall Street (2-1) in Cumberland Lodge Stakes, making all to repel Salmon Ladder.

2.35: Dettori nicks the Diadem Stakes on Diffident (12-1) with an opportunist ride to hold on from the unlucky Lucayan Prince.

3.20: Dettori produces Mark Of Esteem (100-30) with a perfectly-timed run to cut down Bosra Sham in the final furlong of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

3.55: Decorated Hero - gambled on by Frankie's followers from 14-1 to 7-1 - wins the Festival Handicap. The top-weight bursts clear half a furlong out and strides clear of Kayvee.

4.30: Godolphin again as Fatefully - backed down to 7-4 from 5-1 - leads a furlong out in the Rosemary Rated Handicap and hangs on by a neck.

5.00: Lochangel makes all under a hands-and-heels ride in the Blue Seal Stakes.

5.30: Fujiyama Crest, forced down from 12-1 to 2-1 favourite as the bookies tried to hedge their bets, lands the gamble by a neck. Dettori's obvious glee as he stands in the stirrups and waves his whip says everything about his moment of history.

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