He may be 50 and by his own admission only motivated by the big occasions these days – but Frankie Dettori proved again that when it matters there are not many better as he plotted a route to tote+ Chester Cup glory on Falcon Eight.
The Dermot Weld-trained top-weight was slowly away, meaning Dettori was faced with the conundrum of taking his medicine at the back of the pack or rushing up around the outside.
He decided to drop in to save ground and it proved an inspired move, although it also helped that when push came to shove with half a mile to run he was sat on the best horse.
Dettori had ridden Falcon Eight – who hails from an illustrious Moyglare Stud family – to win at Sandown two years ago and also rode him later that year in the Prix du Cadran. That knowledge certainly helped as he knew when to press the button.
“I had to go to Plan C. I know he’s not the fastest away and they went fast, so I just thought ‘well, I’ve got to take it’,” he said.
“The pace was honest throughout, but I was able to take a pull and I saved ground by going all the way to the back. When we got to three and a half (furlongs) out I peeled off and went two or three wide.
“I was able to sling shot around the turn and in fairness he picked up. I know he was lumping 9st 10lb, but he is a Group horse really.”
It was that manoeuvre that won him the race. Dettori found himself in the clear and with over a furlong to run the result looked inevitable, as Falcon Eight powered down the centre of the track.
“He was so much on top at the finish Dettori was able to coast over the line, winning by two lengths.
Weld does not make a habit of booking the Italian, but when he does it is a tip in itself.
“Dermot always had this race in mind – he booked me three weeks ago – and he’s a master at these kind of things. He made my life easy,” said Dettori.
“It’s a bit like Australian racing with its short straight here, because you are on a stayer, you’ve got to get them going early between the three and the two.
“In fairness this horse can be lazy at times, but today he’s shown a good turn of foot. Maybe the headgear worked, but he’s a different horse to the one I rode in the past.”
Weld was not on the Roodee to elaborate on plans, but Falcon Eight’s days in handicaps are surely over having defied a mark of 104, meaning a step back up in class looks inevitable.
“He won a Listed race (at Sandown), but maybe we over-faced him too quickly after that by running in the Prix du Cadran and races like that, but he’s matured now and he’s worth another go in some Group races,” said Dettori.
“I’m sure Mr Weld has plenty of good plans for him.”
Incredibly it was exactly 30 years since Dettori last won the Chester Cup, on Star Player in 1991. And the importance of such races are not lost on him.
He said: “I don’t remember it (first Chester Cup) – I hope I don’t have to wait another 30 years!
“It’s so hard to win these races. We all have plans but with so many runners on a tight track, you have to readjust. I just had to let the race unfold.
“The only thing I was worried about was that I had so many horses to pass, but the pace was honest throughout and I was able to make a move going past the four-pole.
“He can be very lazy at times and I thought if he hit one of his flat spots it will be hard to get him going in this short straight, but in fairness, he did pick up well today and I always had the race won from one out.
“I was saving ground until about half a mile out, but I started to make a move and then three out I thought ‘right, we’ve got to go now, we’ve got to get going’.
“I got some momentum going at the top of the bank and when we sling-shotted down.”
He makes it all sound so easy.