Royal Ascot: Frankie Dettori and Stradivarius have a date with destiny in bid

He has 73 Royal Ascot winners to his name and yet, for Frankie Dettori, none may come bigger than next week’s Gold Cup. The 50-year-old is certainly feeling the pressure.

Dettori is set to be reunited with one of his oldest friends Stradivarius, a pairing that have won Thursday’s feature contest for the past three years.

A fourth success would equal the record of the great Yeats and cement the place of both horse and jockey in the history books.

“I have the pressure of doing it for him because I want him to be remembered as one of the greats,” Dettori told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s probably going to have one last shot at this so I just want to make sure that I get it right.

“It will be amazing. At the moment I don’t want to think about if he wins, I just hope we can get him there in one piece and in the best form that we can.

“The celebration is always easy after.”

Dettori’s partying – or at least his previous efforts – have led trainer John Gosden to draw parallels with the “flamboyant” nature of Stradivarius.

“[Dettori] enjoys riding this horse and the horse is not unlike him,” Gosden said. “I should think Frankie going into a disco in his youth is rather like this horse when he goes into the paddock and starts shouting and screaming at everyone.

“I think to that extent they were probably born to be together.”

Recent Oaks winner Dettori shows no sign of slowing and nor does the seven-year-old Stradivarius.

The consensus from the Gosden yard – where son Thady is now joint-license holder – is that their evergreen stable star retains the same enthusiasm for the game.

“He’s a remarkable horse,” Thady said. “To sustain that level of form for those years and to keep sounds and mentally enjoying the game is pretty special.

“The key thing about him is he’s been a lot of fun to be around. He’s a very flamboyant horse as you see on track and off track.

“He must have been up Warren Hill [their Newmarket gallops] a thousand plus times and every day he goes up there with the same zest and zeal since he first arrived.”

Royal Ascot Group 1 races

2.30 Tuesday – The Queen Anne Stakes

3.40 Tuesday – The King’s Stand Stakes

4.20 Tuesday – The St James’s Palace Stakes

3.40 Wednesday – The Prince of Wales’s Stakes

4.20 Thursday – The Gold Cup

3.40 Friday – The Commonwealth Cup

4.20 Friday – The Coronation Stakes

4.20 Saturday – The Diamond Jubilee Stakes

Rab Havlin, who rode Stradivarius to the first of his 17 career victories at Newcastle in November 2016, agrees.

“He seems as if he wants it more than ever,” Havlin said. “He’s a little bit more fierce in the box, more coltish on the heath, but when he gets on the gallops he’s his same old self.

“A long with Enable, he’s become a bit of a people’s horse so in that sense he’s a type of legend and I’m sure he’ll be remembered that way when he retires.

“He likes to say hello to the ladies every morning. He seems to be able to pick out the best fillies on the heath in the morning and he gives them a little shout.

“He’s obviously filling his diary already.”

Despite dominating his division for so long, Stradivarius found himself facing plenty of questions on his seasonal reappearance at Ascot in April, having ended 2020 with disappointing runs in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Long Distance Cup.

The answer, though, was fairly emphatic. Dettori declaring the dream of a fourth Gold Cup “is still alive” after victory in the Longines Sagaro Stakes.

“He looks great,” Dettori said. “When I’m on top it’s an amazing feeling to be able to follow the horses in front of you and then pass them instantaneously.

“He’s a very clever horse because he does what he has to do but he doesn’t overdo it. Once he’s got the race won he thinks he’s done enough.”

John Gosden added: “For a stayer he has that one deadly weapon and that’s his turn of foot.

“This is a horse that doesn’t grind it out, he does it with that class. Let’s hope that at seven years old he can still maintain that.

“He ran a nice trial the other day and now we’ll build him up to the main event.”

Gosden senior has seen it all before and he is not letting himself get carried away in the gravity of the moment.

“If he runs a huge race and he’s right there at the finish, at that age it’s a great achievement,” he said.

“These are never easy, particularly two-and-a-half miles round Ascot in a Gold Cup, but it will be a massive achievement for the horse.”

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