Frankie dettori

Tom Marquand was the star of Goodwood

On no course in Britain does jockeyship count for more than at undulating, tricksy Goodwood and although Frankie Dettori was able, on his final appearance there, to treat the expectant crowd to a couple of flying dismounts after victories on Epictetus and Kinross, the week’s top rider was clearly Tom Marquand. One racing sage told me during the week, ‘Racing will desperately need another Frankie to engage the public’s attention’ – and when I proffered Tom and his wife Hollie Doyle as a twosome who could do so together, the rejoinder was: ‘Of course Tom’s got the ability but he’s just too nice.’ He meant that you simply couldn’t imagine

Frankie gets his last Royal Ascot hurrah – in spades

We all wanted Frankie to have a last Royal Ascot hurrah. In the end he got four, including a ninth Gold Cup to list on the Dettori honours board, a ride in carriage four of the Royal Procession and a cheeky kiss for the Queen. Ascot has always done for him what the Hollies crowd at Edgbaston have done for Stuart Broad, revved up by his flailing arms as he pounds into the wicket. But let us not grieve: a truly thrilling Ascot provided plenty more evidence of quality in the saddle. John Gosden wryly noted of Mostahdaf: ‘He’s going to enjoy being a stallion’ ‘Riding is about reaction,’ said

My summer Twelve to Follow

Usually in May I am still casting an enviously nostalgic eye backwards to Aintree and Cheltenham, reluctant yet to pack away my stouter shoes and rainproof Barbour. This year it is different: I have rarely looked forward more to the Flat. It all began with two glorious races for the Guineas. Rock-star wrinklies make farewell tours an annual event, but this really is to be Frankie Dettori’s last year in the saddle and in this year’s 2000 his victory on Chaldean was a perfect reminder of his skills. Andrew Balding, scoring his second training success in the race in four years with the first horse sent to him by Juddmonte,

The making of a Classics winner

For a Radio Four programme she was hosting Clare Balding once had the idea that it would be fun to apply the techniques of horse breeding to the political world. Strolling around the parade ring at Newbury we duly recorded an item imagining gene mixing between the will to win of a Margaret Thatcher and the indestructibility of a Denis Healey, the feistiness of Barbara Castle with the sinuous positioning of a Tony Blair. Some of those in the couplings suggested even continued speaking to me afterwards. I sometimes become a sounding board for the views of racing connections aware of my political commentating past and at Newmarket on Saturday

I can trace all our problems back to Frankie Dettori

‘If you think about it, Frankie Dettori is to blame,’ said the builder boyfriend, because when things are really bad he deploys satire. One thing leads to another with horses, the joke goes, so we may as well trace our problems back as follows. If Dettori had not ridden a horse called Marienbard to victory in the 2002 Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe by bringing something magical out of a horse as slow as an elephant so that the Godolphin bay suddenly, like something out of a movie, exploded from the absolute back of the field to come from nowhere, overtaking horse after horse after horse in the final seconds

This year, Glorious Goodwood had it all

‘You’re being unfaithful,’ says the punter’s wife brandishing a note found in her husband’s suit pocket: ‘Dorothea 07440 521321.’ ‘No, no, darling that’s a horse I plan to back next week with its form figures.’ Marital harmony is restored. Three weeks later he arrives home to find his wife on the doorstep with suitcase packed and taxi waiting. ‘What’s all this?’ ‘You left your mobile in the hall. Your horse called.’ If that glorious old stayer Stradivarius could talk it would surely be in the dignified tones of his trainer, John Gosden, who pointed out after his hero’s narrow defeat in the Goodwood Cup by Kyprios that because of how

Why racing needs Frankie Dettori

Heading for a holiday in Sardinia, I remembered that the last time we were there our engine-less, drifting boat was rescued by a Mr Dettori. Mrs Oakley’s relief was tempered only by my disappointment that our saviour wasn’t Frankie or even a relative. This time it looks as though it is Frankie, the world’s favourite sardine, who might need rescue. Imagine Morecambe splitting with Wise or Torvill walking out on Dean. The racing world has focused on little else since John Gosden announced, after openly criticising some of his stable jockey’s rides at Royal Ascot, that he and Frankie Dettori are taking a sabbatical. John Gosden is the epitome of

The joy of Royal Ascot

In a disintegrating country, stuck for the moment with a Prime Minister who can’t see the difference between a proliferation of photo-ops and the act of governing, we needed a Royal Ascot week. No racecourse in the world does photo-ops better than Ascot – the carriage processions, the toppers and tails (and yes, Madam, wear what appears to be a pair of mating macaws on your titfer if that is what rocks your boat), the bandstand singsongs. But at Ascot they know that the show counts for nothing without the substance and in its enthusiastic embrace of internationalism (another contrast with Downing Street) Ascot delivers, bringing top-class contestants from the

The importance of second chances

A Sandown Saturday proved the perfect send-off for 12 raceless days on the otherwise wonderful Isle of Mull. A Frankie Dettori win on a progressive colt who could bring the Queen a Derby victory in her Platinum Jubilee year of 2022, another victory that restored the rumbustious Jane Chapple-Hyam’s faith in her best filly, and a talk with a jockey whose career is taking off nicely thanks to hard grafting after an early mistake left me in perfect holiday mood. I was bouncing anyway thanks to a meticulously researched family history that Mrs Oakley had bought me to celebrate a birthday with a big zero attached. Links back through a

Proper racing is back at last

At last proper racing is back. Through the long days of lockdown horses and jockeys have still given their all on the track. But racing is an emotive, instinctive sport which needs the oohs and aahs of sizeable involved and vocal crowds to impart its magic. With Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, followed by Glorious Goodwood, at last it felt again like the real thing. In 2020, when the great Enable won the King George VI for the third time, it was behind closed doors in heavy rain. When Derby winner Adayar this year walked into the parade ring with the arrogance of a finely tuned athlete,

The rise of older jockeys

There are many facets to Royal Ascot’s appeal. For some it is glamour, style and opulence. For some it is the betting opportunities afforded by large fields, for others an opportunity to pay tribute to a revered monarch and to share her obvious pleasure in its equine stars. What I love is the sheer intensity of the competition. The immeasurable kudos afforded to owners, trainers and jockeys of being able to say you have had a Royal Ascot winner ensures the fiercest effort from all concerned: there is no such thing as an easy victory at Royal Ascot. Few this year will forget the spectacle of Frankie Dettori and the

In a jam: what Goodwood did with 900 punnets of strawberries

It was to have been, if not a glorious return, at least an encouraging one. On the Stewards’ Cup day which concluded Goodwood’s flagship meeting last Saturday, spectators — 5,000 of them — were to have been admitted to a British racecourse for the first time since lockdown. Course director Adam Waterworth and the Goodwood team had spent £100,000 preparing to keep the pilot scheme crowd not just happy but secure. Carefully socially distanced and out in the open air, the 5,000 would have been far safer than those crowding south coast beaches that same day or drinking at inner- city pubs the night before. But a last-minute change of

Royal Ascot was a triumph – even without the cheers and the hats

Royal Ascot it wasn’t: for the first time in her 68-year reign, thanks to Covid-19, the Queen was not there. Nor were the owners, the crowds, the hats or the morning suits. But just as the Cheltenham Festival gave us the last great sporting spectacle before lockdown, so Ascot celebrated the behind-closed-doors return of sport with five days of supreme skill and drama. As the no-nonsense Hayley Turner put it after a 33-1 victory: ‘It’s still an Ascot winner. Still the same race, the same grade of horses. It’s just as hard to ride winners whether anyone is here or not.’ The smooth Ascot operation provided a masked-up, biosecure environment