There was no fairytale final Classic for Frankie Dettori as the retiring weighing-room legend had to settle for second aboard Arrest in the Betfred St Leger.
It was long thought Dettori would ride his Royal Ascot winner Gregory for his final crack at one of racing’s elite prizes, but the Italian made a last-minute switch to his John and Thady Gosden-trained stablemate Arrest ahead of declarations on Thursday on account of the soft going at Doncaster.
The 52-year-old had begun his farewell season with 2000 Guineas victory aboard Chaldean and in perfect symmetry he was again donning the Juddmonte silks in which he has enjoyed so many big-race triumphs throughout his career as he went in search of a seventh and final Leger trophy.
Like when partnering Arrest in his final Derby earlier in the season, the money came for Dettori’s mount, and he was sent off the 11-4 favourite as the stalls opened for the Doncaster showpiece.
And Dettori’s calculated risk briefly appeared clinical judgement as Arrest surged past a tiring Gregory approaching the final furlong.
However, already edging ahead of them was Ryan Moore aboard Continuous and Dettori was powerless in the closing stages as Aidan O’Brien’s improving colt galloped clear to run out a clinical winner of the world’s oldest Classic.
Dettori said: “I was actually getting excited between the three and the two and I thought I was going to win when I went by Gregory and then I looked over and saw Ryan and though ‘ah, I’m not going to’.
“I think that was a really good Leger, you could almost compare it to the Capri, Stradivarius, Coronet year (2017). I think the top three are pretty good.
“I said to John ‘train him as a good mile-and-a-half horse next year’ but then I realised it’s not my problem anymore”
He went on: “I wanted to curse at Ryan, but he’s such a good mate of mine I couldn’t. I congratulated him and he was on the best horse on the day.
“I had a super run and then I saw I Ryan going better than me and I knew getting second would be good.
“He was a bit gassy, but that’s the way he is. He could be a force to be reckoned with next year over a mile and a half.
“It’s been a good journey, it wasn’t to be but I came close and I loved it.”
As at the Ebor meeting Dettori – who enjoyed a chat with the King, in attendance to watch his Desert Hero finish a gallant third, following the race – laughed off the idea he could be tempted to postpone retirement. “It’s got to be (a) big (offer)! Big!” he said.
Arrest’s training team concurred with Dettori’s thoughts that Arrest could be a real player in some top contests next term.
They were also satisfied with the brave effort of Gregory, who after being up with the pace throughout plugged on when tired in unsuitable ground to finish a not-disgraced fifth.
Thady Gosden said: “They’ve both run very good races, they’ve just been beaten by a very good horse there.
“Arrest has run a super race to be second. Gregory ran a nice race but the ground just wasn’t in his favour, he’s a horse with a lovely action and it would have been a bit deep for him.
“I think they are both quite versatile regarding trip. If you look at Gregory he’s still got some maturing to do, he’s a big horse and could be a Cup horse next year.
“We’ll have to see with Arrest, he’s stayed a mile-six-and-a-half there which isn’t far off a Cup trip so we’ve lots to look forward to.”