Ella Dettori to take part in Magnolia Cup at Goodwood

Ella Dettori is one of 12 women set to contest the Magnolia Cup at Goodwood this year.

The charity race over five and a half furlongs will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on July 29 and will be run in support of UK charity Smart Works, which assists unemployed women to harness their confidence ahead of a job interview.

Bella Freud will be designing the jockey silks for the event, which is backed by Markel.

Kate Stephens, Smart Works CEO, said: “Smart Works and Goodwood share a mission to support and empower women across the UK. That is why we’re honoured to have been chosen as the 2021 Magnolia Cup charity partner.

“In the last year the number of women facing unemployment has risen sharply and Smart Works has never been more needed. Funding for our service will help women across the UK find the confidence to succeed at a crucial moment, get the job and transform their lives.

“We’re grateful to Goodwood and the Duke of Richmond for giving us this opportunity and enabling us to reach more women with our service.”

Dettori, daughter of the world-renowned Frankie Dettori, is one of the dozen riders set to be in action on the Sussex Downs, with Thea Gosden-Hood, daughter of Dettori’s long-time retained trainer John Gosden, also in the line-up.

The Magnolia Cup has raised over £1.6 million and captured the public’s imagination when last contested in 2019, as 18-year-old Khadijah Mellah triumphed having learnt to ride at the Ebony Horse Club, which aims to transform young lives through horses in south London’s most disadvantaged communities.

Dettori rises to the occasion with Chester Cup masterclass

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.”

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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.

Falcon Eight swooped down the centre to win going away
Falcon Eight swooped down the centre to win going away (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“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.

Falcon swoops in Chester Cup under inspired Dettori

Frankie Dettori ended a 30-year wait for his second victory in the tote+ Chester Cup aboard Dermot Weld’s Irish challenger Falcon Eight.

Out of the same mare that produced the top-class Free Eagle and dual Irish St Leger heroine Search For A Song, Falcon Eight was a 15-2 chance as he made his handicap debut under top-weight on the Roodee.

Dettori, who won the 1991 Chester Cup aboard Star Player, produced a typically well-executed ride aboard the Moyglare Stud Farm-owned six-year-old – keeping his powder dry in midfield for much of the two-and-a-quarter-mile feature.

The popular Italian allowed his mount to make inroads ahead of the home turn before switching wide, after which Falcon Eight powered up the straight to win comfortably by two lengths.

The Grand Visir filed the runner-up spot, with Hochfeld third and Coeur De Lion fourth.

Dettori said: “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’.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

He added: “I don’t remember it (first Chester Cup) – I hope I don’t have to wait another 30 years!”

Falcon Eight set for Chester Cup but Almighwar an absentee

Dermot Weld’s Falcon Eight heads the field for Friday’s tote+ Chester Cup Handicap, with ante-post favourite Almighwar an absentee.

John and Thady Gosden’s charge headed the market for the two-and-a-quarter-mile showpiece after finishing second on each of his two runs this year, but he did not feature among a maximum field of 17 for the handicap feature.

Falcon Eight, who will be partnered by Frankie Dettori, will carry 9st 10lb with dual-purpose performers Who Dares Wins and The Grand Visir also towards the handicap summit along with Themaxwecan, one of five runners for Mark Johnston.

The Kingsley House team also fields Lucky Deal, Hochfeld, Trumpet Man and Rochester House.

Who Dares Wins is one of two for Alan King along with Coeur De Lion, while The Grand Visir will be joined by fellow Ian Williams inmates Cardano and Reshoun.

Hughie Morrison’s classy hurdler Not So Sleepy takes his chance, with Rare Groove, Nate The Great, Future Investment, Glencadam Glory and Blakeney Point the other contenders.

A field of 14 goes to post in the consolation tote+ Chester Plate Handicap, with Mancini and Elysian Flame topping the list.

Five runners have been declared for the Melodi Media Huxley Stakes, including the Aidan O’Brien-trained Armory.

The four-year-old was last seen finishing a creditable second to former stablemate Sir Dragonet in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in October.

Easter Classic first and second, Bangkok and Palavecino, represent Andrew Balding and Brian Meehan respectively, with Sangarius and Bharani Star completing the line-up.

Monday Musings: Irish Domination

Where once there was meaningful rivalry, now there is renewed omnipotence. A picture spread through social media early this year of a grinning trainer talking on a mobile phone atop a dead horse has had even more effect than its horrified recipients throughout the horse world could have imagined, writes Tony Stafford.

Up until Cheltenham, the remnants of the Gordon Elliott stables, which had run 321 horses from the time jump racing resumed after the initial stopping through Covid19, was still punching most of its weight under the name if not the supreme control of Mrs Denise Foster.

Traditionally though, every late April/early May the Punchestown Festival has ended any wistful hope that the brash Elliott with his legion of major owners, most notably the O’Leary family’s Gigginstown House Stud, might finally gain a first Irish NH trainers’ championship.

Last week, respectable second place seemed a long way off, that eminence supplanted by the exploits of Henry De Bromhead, he of the surreal Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup and Grand National hat-trick over the previous six weeks.

But now we were in Willie Mullins territory and the week was just perfectly situated to welcome back the trainer’s previously stricken stable jockey. Paul Townend had seen his advantage over the challenging and seemingly unstoppable Rachael Blackmore slip to less than a handful of winners with seven days to go.

Mullins doesn’t do Cross-Country races, of which there are four over the five days of Punchestown, but he does do everything else. And how!

Eight races are staged each day, leaving 36 to go for. Mullins, with five on the opening day and never fewer than three on the four succeeding instalments, put together the unbelievable tally of 19 wins from the available 36 – so more than 50%. He did have 87 runners, very often multiple chances, then, and another 21 of his horses made the first four, that’s 40 win or placed. Place money at the meeting goes down to sixth and he had another ten of those, so altogether 50 in the money.

In all, Mullins’ runners brought back a total haul over the week of €1,470,950. For the season his 182 winners brought almost €5.5 million.

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Elliott’s monetary reward for his 155 wins was €2,863,875 at the time of his suspension. Add to that Mrs Foster’s 16 victories in 205 runs from 135 of the Elliott horses was another €412,860.

But the magic which initially lingered after the paper – if not actual – change of control all but died last week. Mrs Foster’s 36 runners at Punchestown brought no wins, three second places, two thirds and a single fourth and a mere total of €52k. Nineteen of her runners either finished outside the first ten or failed to finish.

You would think that everyone associated with the Closutton steamroller would have been delighted, but what was probably the most spectacular of his victories, in terms of style of performance and the circumstances behind it, was a cause of regret for that horse’s connections.

When Mark Smith first moved to his present house in Essex 40 years ago the one-time Foreign Exchange trader met a neighbour who was soon to become his best friend. Mark owned Balasani, a horse that won the Stayers’ Hurdle for Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival, and soon he and his friend, John Coleman, regularly went racing together.

Then a few years back John became gravely ill with cancer by which time he had bought Klassical Dream. Sadly he was never able to see the horse on the track – it raced in the name of his widow Joanne but was a family horse with his two sons and a nephew taking shares. They insisted that Mark should also accept a share.

It was bitter-sweet for the team when Klassical Dream won his maiden hurdle first time up at Leopardstown’s St Stephen’s Day fixture in 2018 and he duly went on to take three Grade 1 prizes, at Leopardstown in February, Cheltenham’s Supreme Novice, and Punchestown’s Champion Novice Hurdle.

The 2019/20 season proved a massive anti-climax, the ante-post Champion Hurdle favourite racing only twice and beaten at odds-on behind less talented stable companions. Cheltenham 2021 was originally on the agenda but that came and went without him, after which the plan was laid for Thursday’s big stayers’ hurdle over three miles. Klassical Dream had never raced over much further than two miles and would have a 487-day absence to overcome.

Mark spoke to Willie a few days before the race and on Thursday morning before leaving home for a funeral of another good friend he tried unsuccessfully to reach the trainer. Mullins left a recorded message when he could and Mark says it was very similar to the previous one.

I’ve heard it and in it Willie says he would be happy if the horse finished in the first six but above all the priority is that he comes home sound. Mark interpreted this to mean the trainer wasn’t sure he would make the first six.

Mark relayed the news to the other owners, and before leaving had what he calls a “suicide throwaway 50 quid” at around 17-1 when he first noticed the price was dropping. He had expected to be home in time to watch the race, but was still at the reception at the off, so watched it on his phone.

In what was described as the biggest gamble of the week, 20-1 down to 5-1, Klassical Dream under Patrick Mullins, and one of four stable-mates in the race, cantered into the lead going to the last hurdle and drew easily clear of Mullins’ James Du Berlais for a nine-length victory.

There was more than a degree of consolation that the horse had come back with such a bang, and not least for winning the €147,500 winner’s prize, but also some irritation that the message might have been a little more accurate.

These words will be written before Mark and the trainer have their next conversation. “I knew I shouldn’t talk to Willie, who has always been so helpful in all our dealings, as I would probably have lost my temper. None of the other owners are racing people in the way John was and of course I am, and their delight at their horse coming back in such a dramatic manner easily outweighs for them any irritation that they might have had a bigger bet if they knew a bit more beforehand”.

The Irish dominated Cheltenham and Aintree and it was the Flat trainers from that side of the wet divide who collected the first two Classics of the season at Newmarket.

First Jim Bolger, 79, and jockey and son-in-law Kevin Manning, 54, took the 2,000 Guineas with brave home-bred Poetic Flare, 16-1 and a son of Dawn Approach, also a Bolger home-bred and winner of the same Classic.

Then yesterday, Aidan O’Brien, a pupil and amateur rider for Bolger before embarking on his own stellar training career, made it seven wins in the 1,000 Guineas. His second string 10-1 shot Mother Earth, ridden by 50-year-old Frankie Dettori, made use of her greater experience to run past long-time race favourite and stable-companion Santa Barbara.

Like Love last year, who came to the “1,000” with three wins from seven juvenile appearances, Mother Earth put in plenty of creditable runs at two but in her case for just one win, although second at the Breeders’ Cup was hardly a negligible effort.

Unlike Love, though, who went on to Epsom and then York for two more emphatic wide-margin Group 1 victories, Mother Earth is being pencilled in for the Irish 1,000. Santa Barbara, who understandably showed signs of greenness - she raced only in one maiden as a two-year-old – goes straight to Epsom.

It was quite a weekend for big numbers and veterans. Bob Baffert, now 68 years old, made it a seventh Kentucky Derby when Medina Spirit, at just over 12-1, made all under John Velazquez, who is in his 50th year. The colt had won only once previously too, so it was stretching credibility after three defeats that he could win the most important three-year-old race of the year in the USA.

But it was even more amazing given that two runs back, in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, Medina Spirit had been crushed by eight lengths by another Baffert colt, Life Is Good, who was unable through injury to get to Churchill Downs.

The old prototype for winning the “Run For The Roses” was plenty of race-conditioning as a two-year-old, but Medina Spirit didn’t appear until January this year. That was also the starting-point for Life Is Good. That day, Medina Spirit came up short by only three-quarters of a length and he must have been energised when he noticed that his nemesis was not in the field.

Still pictures of the race finish show the Churchill Downs grandstands were packed. I just can’t wait for that to happen here - sooner rather than later I trust!

Evergreen Dettori ‘getting the knack’ of Classic success

Frankie Dettori could not contain his excitement after Mother Earth provided the popular Italian with his 20th British Classic success with victory in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

It is 27 years since Dettori broke his Classic duck in the UK aboard Balanchine in the Oaks – the first of his five wins in the race.

Dettori, who celebrated his 50th birthday in December, has also won the Derby twice, the 2000 Guineas three times, six St Legers and now added a fourth 1000 Guineas victory to his glittering CV, following a dominant display by Mother Earth over the Rowley Mile.

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Dettori, whose shrieks of delight continued from the track to the winner’s enclosure and into the weighing room, said: “I’m super excited.

“It’s a 20th Classic for me at 50 years old. I’m only 10 behind Lester (Piggott) – I’ve got plenty of time!

“Lester was 56 (when winning his 30th Classic), so I’ve got six years left, and Kevin (Manning, 54) won yesterday (2000 Guineas) – come on the oldies!”

“It’s great to do it at Newmarket. I’m extremely happy.

“I’m getting the knack of this now – it took me 30 years to realise what to do!”

While Mother Earth brought strong form to the table, having been placed in the Fillies’ Mile and at the Breeders’ Cup at the end of her juvenile campaign, she was the second string of two runners for Aidan O’Brien behind the much-talked-about Santa Barbara.

Frankie Dettori celebrates on Mother Earth after winning the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket
Frankie Dettori celebrates on Mother Earth after winning the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket (Mike Egerton/PA)

The latter was the 5-2 joint-favourite off the back of a solitary run amid reports of “exceptional” work on the Ballydoyle gallops – but she had to make do with an honourable fourth as Mother Earth and Dettori stole the show.

“I didn’t have the pressure to ride the favourite and I had a very willing partner in a filly that I knew was going to give me everything,” Dettori added.

“Aidan gave me a lot of confidence this morning. He told me to forget about Santa Barbara and ride your own race.

“I followed her as she was the favourite, but when I got to the top of the hill I thought ‘I can’t wait for her all my life, I have to go’. It proved the right move.

“He told me to make sure I got cover, which I did. I kicked at the top of the hill, as Aidan said she’d stay very well, and I won – it’s as simple as that!”

Mother Earth strikes for O’Brien and Dettori in 1000 Guineas

Mother Earth gave trainer Aidan O’Brien a third successive victory in the Qipco 1000 Guineas as she claimed the fillies’ Classic in the hands of Frankie Dettori.

All eyes had been on O’Brien’s other runner, Santa Barbara – but it was the bigger-priced filly who grabbed the glory at Newmarket, taking the Ballydoyle trainer’s tally in the race to seven, with five of those victories in the last six years.

Sent off at 10-1, Mother Earth was given a vintage ride from Dettori, who was registering his fourth win in the race.

The 50-year-old had her in mid-pack, behind Ryan Moore on Santa Barbara in the early stages, as Statement and Fev Rover made the running.

When Dettori asked Mother Earth to make his move, the daughter of Zoffany responded with a decisive turn of foot that took her into the lead.

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They maintained the gallop and went on to score by a length from Saffron Beach, with Fev Rover a neck away in third and Santa Barbara (5-2 joint-favourite) just a nose further back in fourth.

Alcohol Free, the other joint-favourite, was just behind Santa Barbara in fifth.

O’Brien said: “Mother Earth is a very good filly, always was.

“It was unfair to Santa Barbara to come (after one run), but we had to come. With a view to coming back for the Oaks, she had to run.

Celebration time for Frankie
Celebration time for Frankie (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Ryan said he would have liked to have waited longer, but he saw Frankie coming on his outside and he had to go.

“Santa Barbara was just green in the dip, but after having one easy run, it was a great run.

“We kind of felt coming here that she was going to learn as much as she would having three runs, but there was a risk doing it that she was going to get beaten.

“She’s classy and would have learnt a lot for it. She has plenty of time now to get over it before the next day, hopefully.

“We never took her off the bridle at home – today was her first time. Hopefully she’ll come out of it OK and it will do her good.

Aidan O'Brien with Frankie Dettori
Aidan O’Brien with Frankie Dettori (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Frankie’s filly is a very consistent filly. She had a great run in America on her last run last year and she’s very professional and did everything really well, so we’re delighted.

“Santa Barbara was always going to go to the Oaks and Mother Earth was always going to come back to the Irish Guineas. That was the plan.”

He added: “It’s great to have Frankie, what can you say – he’s an unbelievable rider.”

Evergreen Dettori still revelling in the big occasion

Frankie Dettori freely admits that, at 50 years old and in the 34th season of his career, the humdrum days no longer get his juices flowing. But it is very different when he is on his stage.

The Italian has ridden winners around the world, but the place where he comes alive is on a lush green strip of turf in Berkshire.

The speculation is always rife when a seasoned professional with a glittering career behind him might be ready for the pipe and carpet slippers. Just ask six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady, who will be 44 when the season starts – ancient in NFL terms.

Yet certain things get you up in the morning. The aches and pains are lessened by the soothing balm of enthusiasm for the biggest days.

Dettori comes alive in the spotlight. He may have lived in Flat racing’s HQ of Newmarket since arriving in this country from his homeland, but it is Ascot which is his professional home and the Royal meeting, in particular, is the time and place for a clutch of Dettori’s command performances.

And in Stradivarius, he will have a chance of another milestone at the showpiece fixture, after the seven-year-old came through his prep in the Longines Sagaro Stakes on Wednesday with flying colours, beating Ocean Wind by an easy length.

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It was Dettori’s fifth Sagaro Stakes success, although the last winner of the race to go on to land the Gold Cup was Estimate in 2013. Dettori is now seeking a ninth Gold Cup triumph, and a fourth consecutive one with the Bjorn Nielsen-owned Stradivarius, who has the chance to equal Yeats’ four-timer between 2006-2009.

Dettori said: “Horses like Stradivarius are what you get up for. He had been a progressive three-year-old the season before his first Gold Cup when he had improved as the summer had gone on. We knew he had strengthened up over the winter and we genuinely thought we had a real Gold Cup contender on our hands.

“And he has just been so consistent ever since.”

Frankie Dettori leaves the weighing room ahead of the Sagaro Stakes
Frankie Dettori leaves the weighing room ahead of the Sagaro Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Much like his partner, who is as addicted to the adrenaline kick of a big winner as much he ever was. Probably more so.

Dettori and his trainer, John Gosden, realised that in Stradivarius, a chestnut with distinctive white socks on his legs, they had a rare commodity – a stayer with a turn of foot.

Dettori said: “The ground was against him on his last two runs last year, but he’s been in great form at home and he has the same old enthusiasm he has always had. He has shown us all the right signs throughout the winter.

“Bjorn was a little worried that he may not have the enthusiasm, but he has always had that and he’s shown me no signs that he has lost that. John has been very happy with him and he has the ability to win over shorter trips than the Gold Cup.

“Today, I wanted to be closer to the pace and didn’t want them to get away from me, but he has got a turn of foot and when I asked him to quicken, he got there too soon.

“He is an incredible horse and he has that extra burst.”

Dettori shows no signs of calling it a day just yet. He admitted: “Riding horses like those obviously gives you a spring in your step. I feel like a teenager when the season starts, and I still can’t wait to get going. I am as fit as I have ever been, spending time in the gym, and I look after myself, but I also must be realistic.

“I am very lucky to have a boss like John. He understands me. He’d rather have me up for the weekends and the big days, fresh and hungry, rather than slogging around the country chasing smaller prizes that just don’t motivate me anymore.

“There was a time when I wanted to win every race. I’d have driven miles for a winner, even if it was just a seller. But it is impossible to maintain that level of motivation.

“You never know what is around the corner, but horses like Stradivarius are what it is all about.”

And rather like Stradivarius at the end of his races, Dettori’s stride is not shortening. He is looking forwards. There will be plenty of time for reflection.

He said: “Yeats won four Gold Cup and people said that would never be done again, but for us, the dream is still alive!”

There is a statue of Yeats in the parade ring at Ascot. “Let’s hope they will have to make space for one of Stradivarius,” he added.

Super Stradivarius seals Sagaro success on return to action

Stradivarius returned to action with a smooth success in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.

Now a seven-year-old, Bjorn Nielsen’s superstar stayer showed all his old enthusiasm remains intact.

Kept in training in an attempt to emulate Yeats by winning a fourth Gold Cup back at the Royal meeting in June, the Sea The Stars entire cemented his claims as still being very much the one to beat.

Ridden by his old ally Frankie Dettori, he was content to let Stag Horn and Nayef Road set an honest gallop.

With half a mile to run Dettori had been shuffled to the back of the six-runner field, which meant he had to go from the inside rail to right around the pack just after the turn into the straight.

As Stag Horn dropped away John and Thady Gosden could watch on contently as Dettori was still going sweetly with over a furlong to run on the 4-6 favourite.

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His customary turn of foot was in evidence as he went two lengths clear and while he did begin to tire as Ocean Wind and Nayef Road closed in, Dettori did not need to get serious and just kept him up to his work to beat Ocean Wind – who ran well up in class – by a length.

As the chestnut had been well beaten in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and on Champions Day in his final two outings, the Gosdens will have been pleased with what they witnessed and the general reaction from the bookmakers was to cut Stradivarius to 6-4 to win a fourth Gold Cup.

Gosden senior said: “He (Nielsen) is incredibly sporting. To have a horse like this who has won three Gold Cups and four Goodwood Cups and a number of other races has been a dream come true. The old horse has got his enthusiasm still, as you can see. The last two races were bottomless ground and bottomless ground and he didn’t like either of them.

Stradivarius was a joy to behold at Ascot
Stradivarius was a joy to behold at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Frankie has been and sat on him since he has got out of quarantine twice. I’ve been thrilled with him all winter, he’s happy with him. All the people who work around the horse – we’ve all been very pleased with him. The horse has been his normal self.

“He ran a great race with poor old Anthony Van Dyck in the Prix Foy on decent ground. Then it was like a bicycle velodrome race in the Arc, when they trotted then sprinted in heavy ground and he didn’t like it and then the ground here was close to unraceable (on Champions Day), so I ruled those two races out.

“So I had every confidence that the enthusiasm was there. Frankie was over the moon with him – he travelled well and he thought ‘Oh, I’d better not let them get too much rope on me, and the next thing I gave him a click and he’s taken four lengths out of them in half a furlong and I hit the front too soon,’ so that’s a good sign.

“He is comfortable over this trip (two miles). He ran third to Ghaiyyath in a track-record time in the Jockey Club Stakes first time out last year in order to give him a prep. He was in the mix until the last furlong, but it was a track record and he was probably four and a half lengths off the track record over a mile and a half on fast ground.”

All roads now point towards the Gold Cup, without another run, according to Gosden.

He said: “He’s fine. He’s got the speed, but obviously he likes the Gold Cup distance, and I think we’ll come straight back here for the Gold Cup – I don’t see the point in running him anywhere else in between.

“His best surface is good ground like most horses. The summer soft, which we had last year, he can deal with. But when you get autumn, bottomless ground, no – that is not his scene. He has too good an action for that.”

A delighted Dettori said: “These horses are what you get up for. He’s been in great form at home and he has the same old enthusiasm he has always had. I wanted to be close and didn’t want them to get away from me, but he has got a turn of foot and when I asked him to quicken, he got there too soon. He is an incredible horse.

“Bjorn was a little worried that he may not have the enthusiasm, but he has always had that and he’s shown me no signs that he has lost that. John has been very happy with him all winter and he has the ability to win over shorter trips than the Gold Cup.

“Yeats won four Gold Cup and people said that would never be done again, but for us, the dream is still alive!”

Palace Pier back in style with mighty Mile performance

Palace Pier proved a class apart from his rivals as he returned to winning ways in the bet365 Mile at Sandown.

John and Thady Gosden’s four-year-old made giant strides last year, starting out with a handicap victory at Newcastle on his reappearance before winning the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He then went on to land the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville – but was bogged down by the very soft ground on Champions Day back at Ascot, losing his unbeaten record in the process.

Despite connections attempting to dampen enthusiasm before his return in terms of his fitness, he was still the 4-11 market leader against just three rivals, which included Roger Varian’s Khuzaam, so impressive when winning on All-Weather Finals Day.

Frankie Dettori had to encourage Palace Pier to take up the running from the latter with well over a furlong to run and while he did not pick up immediately, when he did his response was emphatic.

On meeting the rising ground Palace Pier found overdrive and ran out a hugely impressive eight-length winner from Bless Him in second.

On the back of his victory Paddy Power make Palace Pier their 10-11 favourite from 13-8 for the Lockinge at Newbury next month.

Frankie Dettori and Palace Pier in full flight
Frankie Dettori and Palace Pier in full flight (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gosden said: “He was 80 per cent today, but luckily they didn’t put it up to him.

“He’s having a good blow and in terms of where we would look next, this was the right starting point.

“It should put him spot on for the Lockinge at Newbury and then we would look towards Royal Ascot (Queen Anne).

“He’s a grand horse and I’m sure he will get further at some stage,. We will put him in the Eclipse, although I’m mindful that it comes pretty close to Royal Ascot.”

Waldkonig passes Gordon Richards test with flying colours

Waldkonig confirmed himself as a top-class prospect for the season ahead as handled the step up in class to win the bet365 Gordon Richard Stakes at Sandown for John and Thady Gosden.

A half-brother to 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Waldgeist, the Kingman colt was sent off odds-on to be stablemate Mishriff this time last year – with subsequent events proving he was up against one of the best horses in the world.

Having won a handicap at Pontefract off a mark off 101 on his seasonal return, he was the 6-4 favourite to beat a field who all had solid Group-race form to their name.

Settled in second by Frankie Dettori as Extra Elusive set the pace, Waldgeist hit the front well over a furlong out.

Waldkonig stretches clear
Waldkonig stretches clear (Neil Morrice)

The only runner to make any significant ground from the rear was the veteran Desert Encounter, but he never looked like catching the winner and went down by a length and a quarter.

Extra Elusive stuck on for third, but Thunderous and Highest Ground, first and second in last year’s Dante, both disappointed.

Gosden said: “We had some very bad trouble with a deeply-infected tooth with this horse which required two operations to get it out, as it was so deep.

“He was very ill, but has come back well to win on fast ground at Pontefract and on well-watered ground today.”

Waldkonig looks pleased with himself on his return
Waldkonig looks pleased with himself on his return (Neil Morrice)

He went on: “He’s come through everything and is a relatively fresh horse and when you look back at his form, such as his third behind Mishriff at Newmarket, it is pretty hard to knock.”

Betfair gave the winner an 8-1 quote for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, but a return to Sandown could be on the agenda.

Looking to future plans, Gosden said: “The options will be over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half, including the big one here in July (Eclipse).

“Frankie said he thinks he’ll get further, while his breeder told me right from the start he would be a better horse at four or five.”

Palace Pier returns on star-studded Sandown card

Palace Pier is the star attraction on what promises to be a fascinating afternoon at Sandown on Friday.

The Kingman colt was unbeaten in his first five starts for John Gosden, including Group One triumphs in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville last summer.

Palace Pier tasted defeat for the first time when rounding off his campaign with a third placed finish behind French star The Revenant in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in October, but will be a hot favourite to make a successful return under Frankie Dettori.

His three rivals in the Group Two bet365 Mile include the Roger Varian-trained Khuzaam, who ran out an emphatic winner on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield three weeks ago.

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The quartet is completed by Andrew Balding’s Happy Power and Bless Him from David Simcock’s yard.

The first of three Pattern races on the card is the Group Three bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes, for which seven horses have been declared.

Gosden, who now trains in partnership with his son Thady, again has a leading contender in the form of Waldkonig. The one-time Classic hope steps up in class after making a winning reappearance in a Pontefract handicap earlier in the month.

Sir Michael Stoute saddles Highest Ground, who beat Waldkonig in a novice event at Haydock last season, before finishing second when odds-on for the rescheduled Dante Stakes at York. He disappointed on his final start of 2020 in the Darley Stakes at Newmarket.

Thunderous after winning the Dante Stakes at York
Thunderous after winning the Dante Stakes at York (Dan Abraham/PA)

Mark Johnston’s Thunderous makes his first appearance since winning the Dante in July, while Hollie Doyle’s mount Extra Elusive – trained by Roger Charlton – returns to turf action after finishing well beaten but on dirt in February’s Saudi Cup.

Desert Encounter (Simcock), Hukum (Owen Burrows) and Winter Reprise (David Menuisier) are the other hopefuls.

Yibir and Adayar give Charlie Appleby a strong hand in the Group Three bet365 Classic Trial.

The Godolphin handler has made a flying start to the season with his three-year-olds and will be hoping one or both of this pair can throw their hat into the ring for the Derby at Epsom in early June.

Yibir is one of two Charlie Appleby-trained runners in the Classic Trial
Yibir is one of two Charlie Appleby-trained runners in the Classic Trial (Megan Ridgewell/PA)

William Buick is aboard Yibir, who won a conditions race at Newbury when last seen in September, with James Doyle taking the ride on runaway Nottingham maiden winner Adayar.

Trawlerman is a third Godolphin representative, trained by the Gosden team.

Martyn Meade will have high hopes for Lone Eagle, who won three of his four starts as a juvenile including the Group Three Zetland Stakes, while Irish hopes are carried by Aidan O’Brien’s Sir Lucan.

Recovery Run (Balding), Etonian (Richard Hannon) and Belloccio (Menuisier) also feature in what should be prove an informative affair.

Uncle Bryn goes on trial for Classic glory at Epsom

Uncle Bryn bids to continue John Gosden and Frankie Dettori’s recent domination of the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom.

The formidable combination have landed five of the last six runnings of the Listed contest, with high-class filly So Mi Dar and multiple Group One winner Cracksman among their winners.

Uncle Bryn, who is a general 20-1 chance for the Cazoo Derby back at Epsom on the first Saturday in June, will be making his turf debut on Tuesday following impressive all-weather wins at Kempton and Wolverhampton in the autumn.

Gosden, who now trains in partnership with son Thady, expects to have a clearer idea of what the son of Sea The Stars is capable of afterwards.

He said: “I’m very pleased with him. We looked at the this race and also the Classic Trial at Sandown on Friday, but that looks a very good race this year.

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“We’ve chosen to go Listed in a race we’ve won before – and bearing in mind that his only runs have been on the all-weather, it will be something of a learning curve for him.”

Uncle Bryn’s eight rivals include the Aidan O’Brien-trained Hector De Maris.

The Ballydoyle handler saddled the last winner of the race in Cape Of Good Hope two seasons ago and appears to have another major contender on his hands in this Camelot colt, who impressed on his final juvenile start at Naas in November.

Pythagoras (left) is an exciting prospect for Richard Fahey
Pythagoras (left) is an exciting prospect for Richard Fahey (Tim Goode/PA)

Charlie Appleby and William Buick team up with runaway Kempton scorer Wirko, while Pythagoras bids for a fourth win from six starts for Richard Fahey.

The Sir Robert Ogden-owned youngster was last seen landing the Silver Tankard Stakes at Pontefract in October.

Fahey said: “It’s tough enough for him, carrying the penalty. He’s got to step up, but we’re happy with him.

“We’re a little bit worried about the quicker ground, but it looks like they’ve done a good job there.

“I think the trip will suit and as long as the ground is not too quick I’d be happy enough.”

Martyn Meade has high hopes for Technique
Martyn Meade has high hopes for Technique (Nigel French/PA)

Martyn Meade runs the only filly in the field in Technique, who faces a big step up in class after winning on her Wolverhampton debut.

“It’s a big step up for her, but she acquitted herself very well at Wolverhampton and is a very balanced filly,” said Meade.

“We had the option of either going into a novice or taking a big leap – and on her work at home, we thought let’s take a big leap.

“She could be the sort of horse that copes really well with Epsom.”

Glen Savage sights set on Royal Ascot after winning start

John and Thady Gosden unleashed a smart prospect at Newbury when the well-bred newcomer Glen Savage scored on his debut and now has Royal Ascot already in his sights.

From the family of Nathaniel and Great Heavens, the Gleneagles colt was conceding experience to the even-money favourite Title but showed a very willing attitude.

David Egan appeared to have done everything right on Title, hitting the front with just a few strides to go, but Frankie Dettori’s mount stuck to his task willingly to win in a head-bobbing finish.

The pair did get very close together in the last 100 yards and Egan lodged an objection, albeit ultimately to no avail.

“We thought he’d run well, but I didn’t expect to beat the favourite,” said Gosden senior.

“He showed a great attitude and got a nice run up the rail so he’s done nothing but please us there.

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“He’s from the family of Nathaniel and they do stay well, so he might be one for the (Queen’s) Vase at Ascot.

“He’s quite light-framed, he’s a Gleneagles, but he handled the ground fine today.”

Nugget stretches away under Ryan Moore to win nicely
Nugget stretches away under Ryan Moore to win nicely (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Richard Hannon’s Nugget looked a well-handicapped horse when running out a clear-cut winner of the MansionBet Spring Cup Handicap.

With some consistent handicappers lining up among the opposition, the way Nugget quickened to win by a length was striking.

Lightly-raced, the Highclere Thoroughbred-owned four-year-old already had the benefit of a run this season and also the assistance of Ryan Moore.

Trapped wide throughout, it made little difference as Moore took up the running a furlong out.

Danyah, who had finished third in the Lincoln, gave chase in vain while the well-backed Matthew Flinders stuck on for third – but Nugget had too many guns.

Highclere’s Harry Herbert said: “He got better and better last year, but had a slight setback and was a shade unlucky at Nottingham when he went there a bit on the burly side.

“He loves his racing and according to what the handicapper does it would be nice to run him in something like the Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot. Ryan thinks he has improved significantly, which is very pleasing to hear.”

Nugget was a third winner on the card for Hannon following the victories of Snow Lantern and Chindit.

Foxes Tales (noseband) just wears down Counsel
Foxes Tales (noseband) just wears down Counsel (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Andrew Balding doubled up for the day when Foxes Tales wore down Counsel in the second division of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Maiden Stakes.

The pair had it to themselves from some way out, as the market suggested they might being sent off 2-1 joint-favourites.

Counsel looked to have done enough, but Silvestre de Sousa kept at his mount who responded well for pressure to win by a neck, with a yawning eight lengths back to the third.

Balding earlier won the Fred Darling with Alcohol Free.

Dettori back in business on domestic return

Frankie Dettori rode his first winner of the year in Britain aboard Delta Bay at Newmarket on Wednesday.

Having enjoyed a fruitful winter abroad, the popular Italian – who turned 50 in December – was back in domestic action for the first time in 2021 for day two of the Craven meeting on the Rowley Mile.

And while he was out of luck with his first two mounts aboard Global Giant in the Earl Of Sefton Stakes and Star Of Emaraaty in the Nell Gwyn, he delighted favourite-backers on his third ride of the afternoon in the bet365 European Breeders’ Fund Fillies’ Maiden Stakes.

Runner-up on her racecourse debut at Newbury in October, John and Thady Gosden’s Delta Bay was a 6-4 chance to go one better on her return to action.

Having set the fractions for much of the one-mile journey, the daughter of Nathaniel was strongly pressed by Professional Widow as the line loomed but clung on by a neck.