What do Michael Kinane, Jamie Spencer, Jimmy Fortune and Johnny Murtagh have in common? They have all won the award for the top jockey at Royal Ascot since Frankie Dettori picked up the last of his five riding titles at this meeting way back in 2004.
After the day that Dettori had here on Thursday, it seems difficult to believe. In the first four races, there was not a stride out of place as the most famous name in the game racked up a 449-1 four-timer. He is also, and by an increased margin thanks to his exploits this week, the most successful current rider at the meeting, leading Ryan Moore by 66 winners to 56. Spencer, who is next on the list of current riders, has 23.
But as well as his considerable talent, this is also a testament to Dettori’s durability. His first winner at Royal Ascot came in 1990. Moore’s arrived 18 years later. Dettori has been consistently top-class at Ascot for nearly three decades, while only rarely enjoying the kind of week that puts a rider at the top of the pile.
Even now, after an afternoon that few who were there to absorb the crackling atmosphere will ever forget, Dettori is not assured of his first jockeys’ title at the Royal meeting for 15 years. His total of six winners for the week gives him a healthy lead over Ryan Moore, who has three, but the bookies rate him only a 4-7 chance, with Moore on 11-8, when you might expect Dettori to be long odds-on.
Today’s card at Ascot could make all the difference. Dettori has rides in five of the six races, while Moore has a full book of six. In terms of quality, though, Moore is, on paper, streets ahead. Three of his rides are certain to start favourite, probably at 6-4 or shorter, while the best of Dettori’s partners appears to be Private Secretary, the 4-1 second favourite behind Moore’s ride Japan, in the King Edward VII Stakes, the second race on the card.
A win for Dettori there would be a huge setback for Moore, who is ahead on a “countback” of placed efforts and so needs only to draw level with his rival to win. Elsewhere on the card, it may take a little more of the Dettori magic that was so evident yesterday if Advertise (who faces the Moore-ridden favourite Ten Sovereigns in the Commonwealth Cup) or Twist ‘N’ Shake, around 12-1 to beat the dual Guineas winner Hermosa in the Coronation Stakes, is to extend his lead. One more winner, incidentally, would equal Dettori’s personal record at the meeting, when he rode seven winners in 1998.
Weather-wise, the prospects look excellent for Ascot today, with highs in the low 20s and no rain at all in the forecast. It has been dry at the track since Wednesday evening, but Chris Stickels, the clerk of the course, reported this morning that the going is still good-to-soft on the straight course and good-to-soft, soft in places on the round course.
Stickels does expect that to change as the day goes on, however. “We have a sunny day forecast, so I do expect a change in the going later to reflect that. A great forecast for tomorrow too. A dry, sunny day, so we should see the ground quicken up a little bit.”
Chris Cook’s tips for the fourth day, including a 16-1 chance in the Coronation Stakes, are here, and all the news and more will be live here as the day unfolds.