Frankie Dettori kicked off British Champions Day with a bang by steering Trawlerman to a thrilling victory in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.
On the day billed as his final day riding in Europe before heading overseas, the Italian rolled back the years to not only dazzle at Ascot once more, but also register yet another big-race victory in the royal blue silks of Godolphin.
The 52-year-old was eager throughout to not let the outsider Maxident have too much rope on the front end and was the only one to chase Dominic Ffrench Davis’ charge aboard the 9-1 chance, as Owen Lewis pushed the tempo heading downhill.
Having pursued Maxident and hit the front four furlongs from home, Trawlerman was passed by Aidan O’Brien’s staying star Kyprios rounding the home bend with Ryan Moore soon searching for the winning post.
However, Dettori switched his mount and asked for extra and he bravely battled back to haul in Kyprios and prevail by a neck.
It was a third straight victory for John and Thady Gosden’s stayer, who was third in this race 12 months ago, and for Dettori it was the perfect start to his goodbye to British racing.
Dettori said: “I heard the roar of the crowd – oh my god it was special – especially when I was cutting him back, I couldn’t believe it.
“I’ve beaten one of my greatest rivals who I have tremendous respect for in Ryan Moore, on my final day. Sensational.
“He passed me comfortably and I thought he was going to go and win by 20 lengths, but once he didn’t get away from me I thought I maybe had a little bit left. In fairness to the horse he kept going.”
John Gosden was full of praise for Dettori’s mastery in the saddle.
He said: “The plan was to go forward, and then we heard that that other horse was going to go very hard, and so the idea was to take a lead from him, use him as a target, but the genius of Mr Dettori was not to throw everything at it at the head of the straight but to come there, Kyprios swept past, and to collect again and come back on the line.
“I’d say that was superb judgement on his part, and the other horse (stablemate Sweet William) ran a blinder in third.
“Like all of us, he (Dettori) doesn’t always get it perfect, but he’s a wonderful judge of pace and has great feel for the horse – as has Ryan Moore on the second. Let me tell you, two amazing jockeys and we are lucky to have them riding together.
“I knew the horse wasn’t finished – I never thought he’d come back up and win, I thought he’d get up on his neck or something. I didn’t think he’d get back and win. It quite lifted the crowd.
“Imagine if he wins the next – it’ll take the roof off the place. Kinross likes this ground – he could be on for a double. We’ll never hear the end of it, will we?!”
O’Brien was satisfied with Kyprios’ effort, with the horse having just his second start of the campaign after an early-season setback.
He said: “He ran grand, he just wants slightly better ground but he still ran a big race.
“I’m delighted he’s come back from that injury, he’s obviously come forward a long way from the Curragh.
“He just pulled up when he got the front didn’t he, but he ran a great race, he was coming back again at the line.
“Hopefully he comes back next year.”
Trueshan was bidding for a fourth win in the race, but eventually came home fourth, beaten a total of 14 and a half lengths.
His trainer Alan King said: “I’m not going to use any excuse. It was a gruelling test and I have no excuse. You might say it was his third race in five weeks, but he’s run nearly to Doncaster form with Sweet William and we’ve beaten Coltrane.
“It wasn’t to be but he hasn’t disgraced himself.
“That’s him now, we’ll come back in the spring and maybe look at Nottingham again. There’s no hurdling, I’ve got that out of my system!”