He has 73 Royal Ascot winners to his name and yet, for Frankie Dettori, none will be bigger than next week’s Gold Cup. The 50-year-old is certainly feeling the pressure.
Dettori is set to reunite with one of his oldest friends Stradivarius, a duo who have won Thursday’s feature film competition for the past three years.
A fourth success would equal the record of the great Yeats and cement the place of the horse and the jockey in the history books.
“I have the pressure to do it for him because I want to be remembered as one of the greatest,” said Dettori. Sky Sports Racing.
“He’s probably going to have one last chance, so I just want to make sure I get it right.
“It will be amazing. Right now I don’t want to think about whether he wins, I just hope we can get him there in one piece and in the best shape possible.
“The party is always easy afterwards.”
Dettori’s party – or at least his previous efforts – have led trainer John Gosden to draw parallels with the “blazing” nature of Stradivarius.
“[Dettori] love to ride this horse and the horse is no different from him, ”said Gosden. “I should think Frankie walking into a nightclub in his youth is more like that horse when he walks into the paddock and starts screaming and screaming at everyone.
“I think to that extent they’re probably born to be together.”
Recent Oaks winner Dettori shows no signs of slowing down, nor does the seven-year-old Stradivarius.
The consensus at Gosden Yard – where son Thady is now co-licensee – is that their stable evergreen star retains the same enthusiasm for the game.
“He’s a remarkable horse,” Thady said. “Maintaining that level of form over these years and keeping the sounds and mentally enjoying the game is pretty special.
“The bottom line about him is that he’s been a lot of fun to be around. He’s a very flamboyant horse as you see on track and off track.
“It must have been up to Warren Hill [their Newmarket gallops] more than a thousand times and every day he climbs there with the same zest and the same zeal since his arrival. “
Races Royal Ascot Group 1
Tuesday 2:30 p.m. – The Queen Anne Stakes
Tuesday 3.40 – The stakes of the king’s position
4.20 Tuesday – St James’s Palace Stakes
3.40 Wednesday – The stakes of the Prince of Wales
4.20 Thursday – The Gold Cup
Friday 3.40 – The Commonwealth Cup
4.20 Friday – The stakes of the coronation
4.20 Saturday – The stakes of the Diamond Jubilee
Rab Havlin, who led Stradivarius to the first of his 17 career wins at Newcastle in November 2016, agrees.
“It seems like he wants it more than ever,” Havlin said. “He’s a little more fierce on the surface, more coltish on the heather, but when he gallops up he’s the same as before.
“For a long time with Enable he has become a bit of the horse of the people, so in that sense he’s kind of a legend and I’m sure he will be remembered that way when he retires.
“He likes to greet the ladies every morning. He seems to be able to spot the best fillies on the heather in the morning and he gives them a little cry.
“He’s obviously already filling out his diary.
Despite dominating his division for so long, Stradivarius found himself faced with many questions about his seasonal reappearance at Ascot in April, having finished 2020 with disappointing races in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Long distance cut.
The answer, however, was quite categorical. Dettori declaring that the dream of a fourth Gold Cup “is still alive” after her victory in the Longines Sagaro Stakes.
“He looks great,” Dettori said. “When I’m at the top, it’s an incredible feeling to be able to follow the horses in front of you and overtake them instantly.
“He’s a very smart horse because he does what he has to do but he doesn’t overdo it. After winning the race he thinks he’s done enough.”
John Gosden added: “For one left, he’s got this deadly weapon and it’s his turn to kick.
“He’s a horse that doesn’t crush him, he does it with this class. Hopefully at seven he can still maintain it.
“He had a good try the other day and now we’re going to get him ready for the main event.”
Gosden senior has seen it all before and he doesn’t get carried away by the gravity of the moment.
“If he’s running a huge race and he’s there at the finish, at that age it’s a big achievement,” he said.
“It’s never easy, especially two and a half miles around Ascot in a Gold Cup, but it will be a huge achievement for the horse.”