They are words I remember my late father saying when he talked about the great Lester Piggott. “He won’t go on forever. Racing will miss him when he retires.”
The sentiment applies to Frankie Dettori who managed to create an upbeat atmosphere at an otherwise quiet Royal Ascot. From day one of the 2020 meeting he had fun with the fact that racing took place without spectators. When he won aboard my tip Frankly Darling on day one of Royal Ascot he pretended to milk the applause of what would, in normal times, have been a packed stand. All in all, Dettori rode six winners at the meeting. The easiest of which was aboard our three time winner of the Gold Cup, Stradivarius. Horse and jockey won that race by a whopping ten lengths. Watch the race in full here.
A Royal Ascot without a crowd needed a character like Frankie to light it up and inject some fun into the event. But there were excellent rides by other jockeys. Jim Crowley has long been a favourite of mine and he also rode six winners at Royal Ascot.
It was pleasing to see the younger, lesser known jockeys photographed below enjoy winning rides. Jockeys such as Kevin Stott. He won back to back races on the Friday and was suitably emotional after the race. Thore Hammer Hansen rode Coeur De Lion to victory in the Ascot Stakes. Rossa Ryan won on Highland Chief in the opening race on Thursday. Ben Curtis rode Dandalla to victory in the Albany Stakes. Hollie Doyle won aboard Scarlet Dragon, a 33/1 winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes. 24 hours later her boyfriend Tom Marquand delivered Who Dares Wins with perfect timing to land the Queen Alexandra Stakes.
Young and talented Tom Marquand was brought down to earth on Monday, however, when it was revealed that he would not keep the ride aboard English King, the 7/2 favourite to win the Derby at Epsom in July. He had ridden English King to impressive victory in the Derby trial race at Lingfield. But the owner of the horse, Bjorn Nielsen, and trainer Ed Walker have booked Frankie Dettori to ride the favourite on Saturday 4th of July.
Walker told the Press Association: “Frankie is going to ride English King in the Derby. I feel desperately sorry for Tom, and it is absolutely no reflection of our faith and trust in his ability.
“Bjorn and I mulled it over and watched all the trials, and it became increasingly clear John (Gosden) wasn’t going to have a Derby runner. After Tom won on the horse at Lingfield he asked if he’d keep the ride in the Derby, and I said to him ‘your only danger is Frankie’.
“Frankie obviously has a wealth of big-race experience and raises his game to stratospheric heights for the big races. We feel very privileged to have him on board.
“The Derby is the Derby, and Frankie is Frankie. It’s very tough on Tom – but he has never ridden in a Classic around Epsom before, and I hope he’ll have other big days with us in the future, very possibly on this horse. It wasn’t an easy decision.
“It will be my first runner in the Derby – fingers crossed we get there – and having Frankie Dettori on board will just give me a bit of confidence as well, and obviously Frankie and Bjorn have the connection through Stradivarius.
“English King is in cracking form – really well in himself. I just hope we can keep him in the same form for the next 12 days.”
“We haven’t organised when it will happen yet, but Frankie will come and sit on him between now and the Derby,” said Walker.