LIFTING THE LID: For a unique perspective on British Champions Day at Ascot we’ve teamed up with former top jockey and agent to Frankie Dettori for 20 years, RAY COCHRANE for his exclusive views on Saturday’s top quality card and Frankie’s prolonged retirement plans.

🟪 Will Champions Day still be a grand finale for Frankie Dettori?

People come to see good jockeys riding in good races – that’s what Ascot’s all about this weekend. Frankie [Dettori] plays to the crowd, he loves the crowd and they love him, so I don’t see the fact that he isn’t going to be retiring putting any downer on the meeting whatsoever. He’ll make sure it won’t be!

When he rides a winner, he loves to get the crowd going. He’s the only jockey that we’ve known here that has done that sort of thing. I think he’s makes going racing, to a big day more special for the crowd, because he engages them in what’s going on.

It would make a great day if he were to sign off with a winner in the Champions Stakes. Frankie’s taken the ride on King Of Steel, who as far as I’m concerned should be favourite. It would mean a lot to me to see him ride the winner, I don’t really want to see him draw a blank on Saturday, as it would be a bit dull. If he rides a winner on Saturday, the place will erupt.

🟪 Frankie’s retirement decision

I’m not really surprised. He hasn’t been thinking about it, other people have been putting it forward, saying, ‘When are you going to retire?’. I don’t know why they keep bringing it up. I mean his weight is in fantastic order – he’s always as fit as a flea – he’s in great form, riding big winners left, right and centre, so why would you give up a job you love because somebody keeps saying ‘Are you going to retire’? He doesn’t need to retire, riding big winners is what he loves doing.

He’s going to California and he’ll love it there. It’ll be sunny and warm and he loves all that. The people will love him over there for his personality. They have a lot of racing in America though, sometimes a jockey can have nine rides a day, and I don’t think he wants to get involved in any of that. He maybe wants to go and have two or three rides a day, not kill himself trying to make a name. He’s a big enough name and he’ll get by if he goes quietly as he’s doing now.

🟪 Will we see Frankie back riding in the UK?

Don’t be thinking that he won’t be back here, he’ll be back at the drop of a hat to ride in all the big UK races, because that’s what he does. Don’t be expecting this is the last year we’ll see him – I’m sure we can’t get rid of him that quick!

I’d imagine he’ll be here for the Guineas, the Oaks, the Derby, Royal Ascot, the King George and every other big race he can get a good ride in. I’m sure John Gosden will call on him regularly, as more than likely will Ralph Beckett if they need to call in a top-class jockey. I would imagine he’ll be the first port of call.

🟪 When did you first spot Frankie’s talent?

Frankie was my apprentice when I was retained by Luca Cumani. He arrived there when he was 14, so I saw him a couple of summers before he became an apprentice. One of the first mornings I spotted him walking around the barn, the assistant trainer was with me, and I said, ‘Who’s that scrawny kid over there? He sits well, doesn’t he?’ He said, ‘That’s Gianfranco Dettori’s son, Lanfranco. He rides well, but he’s a cheeky monkey’.

When he got to be apprentice, we would work together all the time and I could see he was going to be special. I came in one day and I said to my agent, ‘We might be looking for a job shortly, because if he holds it together, this kid is going to be very good.’ And eventually he took my job!

🟪 Memories of riding with Frankie

The day when he rode all seven winners at Ascot, there were about half a dozen of us in the sauna before racing. Darryll Holland had to go up to his owner’s box early to talk about his rides, so he was asking us – me, Mick Kinane and Frankie – what we thought about our chances. Frankie said, ‘I think my one in the third has a chance’. Of course, when he rode all seven winners he went out and told the press, that he thought he’d ride four winners at the start of the day. When he came back into the weighing room, we slated him!

He’d won the first six races, and by this time he wasn’t walking, he was floating out for his final ride. I followed him out to the paddock and the crowd were all over him. He was drawn on my outside at the two-mile start, and he jumped out and let this horse rip down the outside. We were going flat out down the back at Ascot, we went by the mile-and-a-half start and I heard this roar. There’s a road by the side of the track there and I thought it sounded like a tank coming up the side of the road. As we were coming out of Swinley Bottom, Frankie was about four lengths clear, and this roar got louder and I just thought ‘hat’s the crowd roaring him on’. As we turned into the straight, the noise was unbelievable. It’s the only time in my career that I’ve ever heard the crowd roaring from a mile-and-a-half out. He went on to win that race of course. It was an unbelievable day and I’ll never forget that race.

🟪 20 years as Frankie’s agent

We had an unbelievable time, with the big winners he rode, but the one that sticks out is Golden Horn. This was the first year after Godolphin hadn’t renewed his contract and he was walking about like a lost fart. He rang me when I was skiing in Switzerland and said, ‘William Buick has gone to Godolphin’. Immediately I said, ‘Have you rung John Gosden?’, and he said, ‘No’ but I could hear him laughing and he said, ‘I didn’t need to ring him, he rang me.’ I remember saying, ‘Get in there!’. That at the time, when Frankie had no job was like someone putting a big arm around him.

He started riding well for John and he rang me one spring morning, and said, ‘Ray, we’ve got one’, but he couldn’t remember his name! I kept asking what his name was and a week later he told me it was a horse called Golden Horn.

Of course, he went on to win the Derby in his first season back with John, but the race that really stands out is the Arc de Triomphe. He was drawn way out on the outside, which for most riders would be a bad draw. I rang him about it and he said, ‘It’s not too bad – this horse is a big lump and can miss the start, so if he was drawn down on the inside I’ll be shuffled back and my race would be over. At least on the outside, I can shuffle in wherever I want to. That’s the plan.’ He told me that he was going to keep wide and go straight up the track for seven furlongs, and when he got to the top of the hill he would shift across and move in behind the pacemaker. That’s what he did, and it was beautiful to watch. He came into the straight on the bridle, gave him a kick and the rest is history.

⭕ Champions Day 

🏆 Long Distance Cup

Kyprios looked a bit sluggish on his return from a long break in the Irish St Leger. Aidan [O’Brien] did say he would improve a lot for the race.

Trueshan (pictured below) has put in two sparking displays recently and possibly the reason for that is he had a wind operation in May, so that could have been affecting his performances earlier in the season. He’s a tough horse, and for a seven-year-old he has fantastic enthusiasm, so he could take a bit of beating.


🏆 Champion Sprint

For some reason Shaquille ran disappointingly at Haydock. Sprinters can do that for some reason, but if he’s back to his previous form, I expect him to blitz these.

Kinross won this race last year and Karl Burke has two in here with Swingalong and Spycatcher. Swingalong needs fast ground, but Spycatcher should be fine on this ground. They might be the main dangers.


🏆 Champion Fillies & Mares

Free Wind was second on fast ground at York, where she was maybe unlucky not to get up. Then she found things too hot in the Arc. The worry is that she’s not great on slow ground.

Jackie Oh is my fancy for the race. She’s got top-class form and will love the ground. I imagine she will end up as favourite on the day.


🏆 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

I love Paddington, I think he’s a cracking horse. He only does enough to win but the more you look at his form, the best race he’s ever run was when he was third in the Juddmonte at York. In his previous races, there have to be questions about what the horses he’s beaten have achieved. People will shoot me down for saying so, but there’s a slight feeling that he could have been winning sub-standard races.

The French horse Big Rock is very smart and any holes in the opposition will be exposed by him, as he goes best in testing ground.

Tahiyra is in great order at the minute. The pace of this race will suit her and she’ll love the ground. I imagine everything will suit Dermot Weld’s filly and she’d be my selection.


🏆 Champion Stakes

King Of Steel has got the best form in the race. He was unlucky not to win the Derby, then he won the Ascot Derby and ran a cracking race in the King George. He also ran well in the Irish Champions Stakes last time, when he ran up to his Derby form. As soon as I read that he was heading here, I thought he could win, especially back on a stiff track on slow ground. I’d imagine he’ll go off favourite with Frankie riding. I think he could take the beating and it would make the day if Frankie could sneak up on this one.

Horizon Dore is improving but I’m quite surprised that he’s favourite as he doesn’t have the same level of form as some of the horses in this race.

Bay Bridge won this race last season and ran a cracking race in the Arc last time. The track suits him and he should be fine on the ground.


🏆 Balmoral Handicap

It’s a very competitive event. Sonny Liston has competed in plenty of the top mile handicaps this season and has been unlucky three times, including last time at Doncaster. He goes in the ground, and I think this could be his day here. He looks the bet in a wide-open event.


Good Luck

DAQMAN Mon: Yarmouth NAP
DAQSTATS Mon: Yarmouth NAP
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