Change is afoot in the world of Flat racing – a sport that has long benefited from royal patronage and the broad appeal and magical talent of Frankie Dettori.
The late Queen was racing’s most high-profile supporter and Dettori its greatest exponent, so the loss of the former in September and the announcement in December this would be the Italian’s final year in the saddle had obvious ramifications.
Dettori’s flair for the dramatic would never allow him to bow out quietly, of course, and he has shown no signs of doing so thus far, winning the 2000 Guineas aboard Chaldean, the Coronation Cup with Emily Upjohn and the Oaks through Soul Sister.
At his last Royal meeting he rode a winner in front of the King and Queen when partnering Gregory to victory in the Queen’s Vase on Wednesday.
The meeting’s feature race is the Gold Cup, however, a contest Dettori had won eight times prior to his ride on the unexposed but unbeaten Courage Mon Ami, trained by John and Thady Gosden.
Sent off at 15-2 in an open race, he rewarded what was a bold entry in the race to battle to a three-quarter-length triumph over Andrew Balding’s 11-4 favourite Coltrane.
Returning to a grandstand still bubbling from a royal winner for the new King and Queen earlier in the afternoon, Dettori was the recipient of four outbreaks of cheering. Once when riding in, once when performing his flying dismount, once when kissing the Queen on the cheek when accepting the trophy and once when throwing the trophy above his head for the waiting photographers.
“It’s unbelievable, in my last year winning the Gold Cup,” he said.
“Myself, the King and Queen Camilla had a talk beforehand, talking about his win in the previous race and my relationship with his mother, then in the next race I go and win the Gold Cup and he presents the trophy – amazing.
“It’s my last year so this was the only chance I had for the King to present me with the trophy and it’s pretty emotional.
“He’s a lovely man, Camilla is lovely and it’s an honour to ride for them and get presented with the trophy by them.”
Of the winner, he said: “I wanted to ride him to run well, because I really don’t know the horse and I didn’t know his capability or if he was able to stay.
“I knew there would be pace, I wanted to swing out wide but Stephane (Pasquier, on Big Call) kept me in and actually won me the race, because I thought ‘I’ll cut the corner and see what happens’. Then it happened!
“Nine Gold Cups, what can you say – amazing. I’m speechless because I didn’t expect it, to be honest with you.”
Dettori was joined by his children on the podium, an opportunity unlikely to come round again.
“My children came up for the presentation, they were nervous and didn’t know what to do. I said ‘come on, we’ve won the Gold Cup so you can go up there and shake hands with the King’,” he said.
“It’s good for them as now they’re old enough to understand it. For the last 18 years they just thought I was a man on TV, like Peppa Pig or something! Now they really know what I’ve been doing.”