Dettori's landmark softens blow of Stradivarius loss on Champions Day

Ascot (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Legendary jockey Frankie Dettori enjoyed a sweet and sour Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday, as the joy of his 250th Group One victory was counter-balanced by Stradivarius's 10-race winning streak coming to a shock end.

The 48-year-old Italian -- who famously once went through the card at Ascot with seven winners in 1996 -- also suffered the indignity of being dumped from King of Comedy in front of the crowd of just under 30,000, including the sport's most famous patron Queen Elizabeth II.

Star Catcher, though, will remain firmly etched in his memory as the filly prevailed in a thrilling finish to the Fillies and Mares race, just getting the better of Delphinia and Sun Maiden.

Her victory also managed to put the smile back on Dettori's face following Stradivarius's defeat in the previous race, the Long Distance Cup.

"I am still a bit sour about Stradivarius," he said. "From crying to smiling in half an hour!

"She provided me with my 250th Group One. I love her!

"It would have been great to have done it on Enable (in the Arc de Triomphe a fortnight ago) but what a number... It must be a European record."

Stradivarius gave his all in an epic duel with Kew Gardens as both swapped the lead as they hit the final-furlong marker.

Just a nose separated them on the line but it was sufficient to bring to an end the winning streak for John Gosden's redoubtable stayer, dating back to when he was third in the same race in 2017.

- 'Too much of a slog' -

Gosden took defeat philosophically, saying they had been close to pulling Stradivarius out due to the heavy conditions.

"It is Champions Day and you let the day down if you do not run Stradivarius," sad Gosden.

"He found it too much of a slog on the ground but he's run a wonderful race. He came back and had a whinny, so he's happy.

"We will be back for the Ascot Gold Cup (he has won the last two)."

There is a tantalising prospect of a rematch with Kew Gardens in next year's Gold Cup.

"Kew Gardens is an incredible horse and it was a great performance," said trainer Aidan O'Brien.

"We were thinking about the Gold Cup this year and if the lads (the owners) decide to keep him in training, which I think there is a strong chance they will, he could well go for the Gold Cup."

Gosden, like Dettori, bore a happier face when he welcomed back Star Catcher half an hour after Stradivarius's heart-breaking defeat -- sweeter too at the expense of O'Brien's 25/1 shot Delphinia.

Gosden said he had remained calm whilst he saddled her following Stradivarius's defeat.

"You have to remain calm and collected for the horses," said the 68-year-old Englishman.

"You are no damn good if you are jumping around and being neurotic, and when you start saddling them they feel your nerves.

"You need to be calm."

- 'He will be remembered' -

Andrew Balding could have been forgiven for shedding a tear as Donjuan Triumphant won the first race, the Sprint.

In what is his last race, he gave Thai owners King Power Racing their first Group One winner -- he was the first horse the late Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha bought.

"It's fantastic for King Power, a first Group One winner and this was the first horse the Chairman (Vichai) ever bought so it's all got symmetry, it's lovely," said Balding.

O'Brien was to round off the day with his doughty filly Magical taking the Champion Stakes -- the first in the race for the trainer -- and declared her the "ultimate racehorse".

Richard Hannon Junior's King of Change took the honours under Sean Levey in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

"People thought I was a little bit petulant after the 2000 Guineas for not celebrating being second," said Hannon.

"However, you do not remember who is second. Now he will be remembered."