On the eve of the fourth day of the Royal meeting, Frankie Dettori – Mr Ascot himself – seemed to have fallen out with the venue at which he so often excels.
On Wednesday, Lord North, John and Thady Gosden’s well-fancied contender in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, came home last of five when his blindfold became stuck as the stalls opened and he lost lengths on the field.
Thursday saw the mighty Stradivarius’ bid for a fourth Gold Cup scuppered when he had to navigate a wall of horses before throwing down a challenge that eventually saw him finish third.
Dettori then took two successive rides for the Queen and the Gosden stable, Saga in the Britannia Stakes and Reach For The Moon in the Hampton Court Stakes.
Misfortune is said to strike in threes but Dettori was dished up an unwanted fourth helping when both were beaten into second, an unwelcome end to a day that had squeezed the jockey through the emotional wringer.
Sport is about emotion and feelings were certainly running high after Stradivarius’ defeat, with John Gosden questioning his Gold Cup ride while some on social media wondered aloud if Dettori had lost his touch altogether.
However, when the Italian set out to the start aboard the Gosdens’ Inspiral in the Coronation Stakes, it was not only the rider but also the horse who had something to prove.
An exceptional and unbeaten two-year-old, Inspiral’s assumed 1000 Guineas bid never materialised as her preparation proved complicated and in her absence it was George Boughey’s Cachet that stepped forward to take the fillies’ Classic.
The Ascot run therefore came 252 days after the bay’s last outing, a seasonal debut on the biggest stage against an international field of match-fit rivals.
Diamonds are formed under pressure and Inspiral is certainly one of those, her four-and-three-quarter-length victory holding a finger to the lips of any doubters of either jockey or mount.
The three-year-old did not start with promise and was third from the back rounding the final bend, but this time Dettori willed the gaps in the field into existence and threaded his way through to take up the lead with a furlong remaining.
From that point there was only one winner as Inspiral breezed away as he crossed the line, Dettori waved his whip in both relief and celebration.
“You have to put it (yesterday) behind you,” he said.
“You have to cancel it out, you can’t read too much into it, things people are saying – it is gone now.
“It took a long time for Inspiral to come to hand. John gave her the time she needed and, in her last couple of works, she told us she was good to go. It was a question mark if she trained on. She had pleased us, but we were still unsure.
“It has been a very difficult week. It did not work out on Lord North, things did not go right for Stradivarius, we were touched off in the Britannia and the colt (Reach For The Moon) after was odds-on. It was tough.
“When Inspiral fell out of the stalls, I thought ‘here we go again’. Then the big outsider was in front of me, so I was trying to avoid her. Then I took the chance with the split.
“But you need the horse to do that, and she really took off, to the point that I was able to enjoy the last 50 yards for once! She has put some good fillies to bed in great style.
“We have had a tough week, everyone at Clarehaven has been a bit down, but racing is like that. It is good for the team to get one on the board.”
John Gosden, allied with Dettori again after their tensions on Thursday, said: “I asked Frankie coming in. I like the jockey’s first reaction before they have time to think on what they feel, and I think you could go a mile and a quarter with her. This is a stiff mile here.
“Frankie didn’t overcomplicate, which he did yesterday. A jockey must never be tied down to instructions. It is like a blank canvas. If something happens in a race, just ride the way you feel.
“Our hero overcomplicated it yesterday. It’s over, it’s the past and we move on.”