The Frankie Dettori farewell tour will be a long one – an international affair that is likely to roll on until the Breeders’ Cup and Melbourne Cup in winter, when the British racing scene has, even then, started to revolve around Cheltenham and Aintree.
Though the idea of a sport without Dettori will solidify in the later months, the thick of the domestic season was always going to be a poignant time for a rider who has plied his trade in England since he was a teenager.
Dettori is associated heavily with Ascot and a win at the Royal meeting, which attracts more attention than any other on the Flat, was more or less considered a given owing to the Italian’s book of rides and his ability to shine in the limelight.
On the first day of the fixture it seemed fortune was not going to comply with expectations, however. Dettori was beaten a neck on Inspiral in the Queen Anne, was second aboard Chaldean in the St James’s Palace and was second again on Absurde in the Copper Horse Handicap.
To make matters worse he was handed a nine-day suspension for his ride on the King and Queen’s Saga in the Wolferton Stakes, being adjudged by the stewards to have caused interference shortly after the start.
But Wednesday offered more chances, with another competitive book of rides, none more so than Queen’s Vase favourite Gregory, who went off at even money for John and Thady Gosden after winning both of his previous starts.
This time luck did play ball and Dettori ended any conversation about a potential Ascot drought with a convincing length-and-a-half success that drew racegoers from all over the track to watch the famous flying dismount in the winner’s enclosure.
“You get to the second-last on day two and you start to think…,” he said.
“I’ve had a few favourites and three seconds. I knew this horse was good enough, but I wasn’t so sure about his experience.
“He is very laid-back at home and I thought if he doesn’t jump he will get lost, but he jumped great, I got him to the front and I knew he would stay very well.”
He might even have found a St Leger candidate to add an extra layer of gold dust to a CV that is already bursting at the seams.
“He was like a sleeping giant in the yard, and all of a sudden he’s a Royal Ascot winner,” he said.
“Potentially he could be a nice St Leger horse for the end of the season, but John and Thady Gosden will work something out.
“It’s great, my family is here, it’s the only day they are all here, so to ride a winner is great. Ascot very kindly gave me a box for my family today and most of them are here, so I’m glad I could ride a winner in front of them.
“Now I’m chasing 80 (Royal Ascot winners), so I need two more.”
Asked whether he got a great reception, he said: “Yeah I did – of course, an even-money favourite with me on, of course you’re going to get a big reception! It was good and I’m pleased. I hope everyone was on.”
There may still be an appeal to the nine-day suspension, with Dettori taking legal advice before making a decision.
He said: “I’ve got my lawyers looking at it, I’m sad I’m missing Emily (Upjohn, favourite for the Coral-Eclipse) but it’s one of those things.
“I’m glad nobody got hurt or fell. My lawyer is looking at it, it’s that point of the race where you go into a bottleneck, the false rail is out, we all got together.
“If there is room to appeal, we will, but I’m not going to do it just to waste anybody’s time.”