It was a good start for Frankie Dettori at this year’s Royal Ascot. Despite being staged behind closed doors, fans and punters watching on intently at home were treated to his famous trademark flying dismount when Frankly Darling won the Ribblesdale Stakes on the opening day of the prestigious meeting. As the meeting continues and yesterday’s horse racing results still ring in the backs of minds, let’s take a look back further into the archive, to the day that history was made.
The Berkshire racecourse has always been a happy hunting ground for the Italian jockey, not just during Royal Ascot, but throughout the flat season. It was Saturday 28th September 1996 when a very special feat took place. The reigning Champion Jockey at the time arrived at Ascot and what proceeded during the final day of the meeting became a landmark day, one of the greatest days in racing history – as Dettori rode the winners to victory in all seven races on the race card, later dubbed ‘the magnificent seven’. Let’s take a look back.
Cumberland Lodge Stakes – Wall Street
Dettori’s day got off to a flying start when the 2/1 favourite and aptly-named Wall Street produced the performance of his career to win the day’s opening race. Dettori had previously ridden Wall Street on two occasions, with only one of those culminating in a win – and it was the first time the horse had raced over a distance of one mile and four furlongs. But there were no shocks as Wall Street ran a good race, and won by half a length from Salmon Ladder.
Diadem Stakes – Diffident
The jockey didn’t fancy his chances in the second race of the day, and Diffident wasn’t in the best of form going into the Diadem Stakes (now known as the British Champions Sprint). The 12/1 shot hadn’t won a race since February, the President’s Cup in Dubai, and it was the first time that Dettori had ridden the bay, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor. After switching right with a furlong to go Diffident managed to hold on, in what was a thrilling finale that saw him win by a shoulder from pre-race favourite, Lucayan Prince.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – Mark of Esteem
It was a hat-trick for both Dettori and trainer Bin Suroor in the third race of the day – the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. A famous race – the feature race of the day – and a famous victory, with the 100/30-priced Mark of Esteem winning his third race with the Italian in the saddle. It wasn’t easy with the similarly priced Bosra Sham to contend with, but the race was won in the final furlong, with Bosra Sham unable to keep up the pace, and Mark of Esteem ran on well to secure a memorable victory – by one-and-a-quarter lengths.
Tote Festival Handicap – Decorated Hero
While Dettori wasn’t confident ahead of the day’s fourth race, his horse had been allocated top weight and given a tough draw in what was a competitive field, the 7/1 shot overcame 25 rivals to send not only all those connected to Decorated Hero crazy, but also BBC commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan. A victory of three-and-a-half lengths led him to exclaim: “He’s done it again”. It was four out of four for the day, and it also led BBC to continue their television coverage to see if Dettori could extend his tally – much to the delight of those watching on at home.
Rosemary Stakes – Fatefully
It looked as though history would be made at Ascot when Dettori made it five wins from five, and while it was a narrow victory in the Rosemary Stakes, it was a thrilling encounter. Dettori, riding Fatefully, was up against his good friend and rival Ray Cochrane who was on Abeyr. Ahead of the race, as the horses pulled up, Cochrane said to the leading jockey, “Is anyone else getting a chance today?” – The answer was a resounding no. The 7/4 favourite led with over a furlong to go and while Abeyr ran him close, Fatefully edged left and managed to stay on to record a victory by a neck.
Blue Seal Stakes – Lochangel
The next race was more of a formality for the much-fancied Lochangel. With his sixth win of the day, the jockey levelled the record set by three others: Sir Gordon Richards (Chepstow, 1933), Alec Russell (Bogside, 1957) and Willie Carson (Newcastle, 1990) – and of course, he wasn’t done yet. At odds of 5/4, Lochangel was Dettori’s shortest-priced runner and it was a fantastic Ascot debut for the filly. Despite being chased the whole way by other joint-favourite Corsini with Pat Eddery in the saddle – it was a famous and historic win by three-quarters of a length.
Gordon Carter Handicap – Fujiyama Crest
But records are there to be broken – and that’s exactly what Dettori did, in the final race of the day, the Gordon Carter Handicap. The bookmakers had already slashed their odds for Fujiyama Crest to win, from 12/1 at the start of the day to become the 2/1 pre-race favourite – despite the horse’s lack of form. After winning the Gordon Carter the previous year, the colt had failed to win any of his five races, and most recently had lost at Newcastle by 43 lengths. Carrying the top weight, Fujiyama Crest immediately took the lead, and it was Eddery once again (this time on Northern Fleet) who played chase, but managed to keep up the pace well. However, Dettori upped the gears in the final furlong and held on to an iconic and record-breaking victory – by a neck, consigning Eddery to a fourth second-place finish of the day in the process.