‘Frankie factor’ has bookmakers on red alert at Ascot

Bookmakers are wary of their old nemesis Frankie Dettori on what promises to be a vintage Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot.

One of the main talking points on a card featuring a host of equine stars in action might be the climax of the battle for the jockeys’ title between Oisin Murphy and William Buick – but bookmakers fear the ‘Frankie factor’ back at his beloved Ascot.

With the 25th anniversary of his ‘Magnificent Seven’ that turned the betting industry upside down fresh in the memory, the Italian could again have a major say in the headlines at a track that brings out the best in him.

He has just the four rides, but Palace Pier in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Sunray Major in the Balmoral Handicap are favourites – and the warning lights will start flashing should he land the opening Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup on the hugely popular Stradivarius.

Kinross is the biggest price of the Dettori quartet but cannot be discounted in the Qipco British Champions Sprint.

“We always fear the ‘Frankie factor’ regarding multiples when it comes to the big days, and Saturday is no different with the strong book of rides he has,” said Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield.

“The fact he doesn’t have a full book makes it much less of a concern, although if the first three go in then the Balmoral Handicap could be a difficult watch for us with Sunray Major very much fancied in this competitive handicap.

“It is interesting Palace Pier is odds against for the first time in his last six races. Punters could get behind him as it’s a nice price.”

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: “We are always nervous when it comes to Frankie Dettori on Champions Day for obvious reasons, and although he hasn’t got a full book of rides he still has a very strong hand.

“We have already seen support for all four of his mounts and that should really ramp up come tomorrow.”

Stradivarius could give Frankie Dettori a flying start on Champions Day
Stradivarius could give Frankie Dettori a flying start on Champions Day (Nigel French/PA)

Dettori gave Sporting Index the rundown on his four mounts, starting with Stradivarius, who will try to turn the tables on Trueshan, who beat him in the Prix du Cadran.

“Of course, we were disappointed to come second in Paris, but he still ran a good race. Stradivarius takes his racing well and seems ready for a rematch with Trueshan,” he said.

“I have plenty of respect for Trueshan, who is a very good horse under extreme conditions, but I think now that the ground is going to be better at Ascot that will help bridge the gap and make things more of a level playing field.”

Dettori feels Kinross has an each-way chance in a race that holds fond memories.

“I remember winning this race back in the day as an 18-year-old on Chummy’s Favourite for Neville Callaghan. He was 40-1 that day and it was one of my first Group winners. Then on Diffident, who was the second winner in my ‘Magnificent Seven’ in 1996,” he went on.

“I ride Kinross here, who drops back to a sprint trip. We’ve been campaigning him over seven furlongs to a mile, but I think the stiff six at Ascot will be up his street. The softer the ground the better for him, so maybe with conditions drying out that’s against him.

“There are others in the race that have better profiles, but I’m just hoping we get a cleaner run than last time in the Prix de la Foret and, if so, he could get placed.

Dettori expects a mighty run from Palace Pier despite the presence of a highly-progressive rival in Baaeed.

“I love Palace Pier, he’s done absolutely nothing wrong his whole career. The only race he has been beaten in is this one last year, when he lost a shoe and I got squeezed out at the start. He was so far back, and with everything that went wrong that day it was a massive run to come home third,” he said.

“I have almighty respect for Baaeed, but Palace Pier has beaten everything that he has faced. He’s a champion and probably one of the best milers I have ever ridden so I have confidence he will put in a huge performance.”

Dettori signs off on the strongly-fancied Sunray Major, who could be a handicap snip in the Balmoral.

“We always thought a bit of him as a three-year-old. He had 18 months off but has come back and I’ve won on him at Chelmsford and then at Ascot. He’s got loads of potential and who knows how far he could go?” he added.

“The thing with the Balmoral is that there are 20 runners, and a low draw can be key. At this time of year, the best part of the track tends to be the far side, so if you are drawn high, as I was with Lord North in this race a few years ago, it can be a big disadvantage. Unfortunately, we’re in stall 21 and we’ll need plenty of luck from there.”

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