Frankie Dettori proved yet again he is the king of Ascot as he ruled the waves with a memorable double – highlighted by a masterful ride on Crystal Ocean to take the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
It was the ebullient Italian’s 62nd career winner at the Royal meeting, after he had opened his account for 2019 on Raffle Prize in the Queen Mary Stakes.
Even though he has been one of the most sought-after jockeys in the world for the last 30 years, he revealed he approached trainer Sir Michael Stoute for the ride.
“As soon as I knew Enable wasn’t going to run in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and was going to wait for the Eclipse, I rang Sir Michael’s office and said I was available for the ride,” he said.
“He got back to me the same afternoon and I was delighted he said I’d got the ride.”
Dettori knows how to get the best out of his mounts, and on a day when stamina was so crucial with the rain pouring down during the 10-furlong Group One, he had Crystal Ocean in the perfect position.
The consistent and talented five-year-old is arguably better over a mile and a half and his ability to stay the trip well was a factor as Dettori took him to the front early in the straight to put pressure on his rivals.
It was a winning move and Crystal Ocean (3-1) galloped on resolutely to take the honours for owner-breeder Sir Evelyn De Rothschild and win at the top table for the first time after being runner-up three times in the past.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained 13-8 favourite Magical was a length and a quarter away in second place.
Dettori admitted he had concerns the ground might be too soft, but he had to take a chance and play to the horse’s strengths.
“I was worried about the rain as his best form is on firm, but I kicked on the turn and used his stamina. He galloped all the way to the line,” he said.
“He was still full of running and I didn’t feel she (Magical) would get past me. Everything went to plan.
“He can go for all the big races from a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half. He’s a five-year-old, he’s mature and strong. He’s so laid-back.”
He added: “He’s an ultra-consistent horse, he’s a heavyweight of the sport – he never runs a bad race.”
Crystal Ocean has entries in both the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, where he could clash with Enable, and the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes next month. Wherever he goes, he is certain to be a tough nut to crack.
Stoute said: “Crystal Ocean is a high-class horse and I am delighted to have won a Group One with him now. He is just a very admirable racehorse. It’s marvellous to train a Group One horse like this.
“I thought he ran very well in the Champion Stakes last year and better than it appeared (beaten six lengths by Cracksman). He may be better over a mile and a half, but I felt he was a pretty good horse over 10 furlongs, and he proved that today.”
Dettori’s first-race strike on the Mark Johnston-trained Raffle Prize (18-1) was a little more unexpected.
Wesley Ward’s Kimari was in front with two of the five furlongs left to run, but Raffle Prize was just starting her move and swept through to edge into the lead.
While Kimari battled all the way to the line for John Velazquez, she could not get back in front, with Raffle Prize prevailing by a head.
Dettori quipped: “When I saw Wesley’s horse upsides, I thought oh my God, he’s a good friend of mine, if I beat him, he will go crazy!”
Whatever Ward thought about seeing his friend edge him out, Middleham-based Johnston might have spoken for many when he said: “No disrespect to Lester Piggott, but isn’t Frankie Dettori just the greatest jockey?
“I could see him tracking Wesley Ward’s horse and Frankie looking reasonably relaxed and confident.
“Frankie was a true professional as a young jockey back in 1993, and I know he is a superstar – on the big day he’s special.”