Frankie Dettori excited by return of crowds to Royal Ascot

Frankie Dettori can barely contain his excitement at the news that a crowd of 12,000 will be present on each day of the flagship Royal Ascot fixture next month.

By Tom Richmond
Friday, 28th May 2021, 9:56 am
Frankie Dettori celebrates with the Gold Cup at Ascot after winning on Stradivarius last year. Photo: JULIAN FINNEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Frankie Dettori celebrates with the Gold Cup at Ascot after winning on Stradivarius last year. Photo: JULIAN FINNEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Dettori was crowned leading rider at the showpiece fixture for the second year in a row last season – including a landmark 70th success when Fanny Logan won the Hardwicke Stakes when the meeting was held behind closed doors.

The Italian, 50, has been synonymous with the Berkshire venue ever since his ‘Magnificent Seven’ in 1996 and he has high hopes that champion stayer Stradivarius will win a record-equalling fourth Ascot Gold Cup

But as he reflected on his successes of last year, along with Enable’s third King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes win, he described the sight of empty stands as being like “someone had cut my arm off”.

“It’s unbelievable news, and I’m so happy,” said Dettori, following the announcement that Royal Ascot will be added to the list of the Government’s pilot events and therefore able to welcome back a crowd of 12,000 on each of the five days.

“There’s nothing better than Royal Ascot with people. I know it’s not 60,000 – but it’s better than what we thought. Well done to everybody involved that made it possible.

“Last year I was leading rider at Royal Ascot and won three Group Ones, including the Gold Cup, (and) later in the year I won the King George. To have nobody there to see any of that, it was like someone had cut my arm off.

“Those are the biggest races we’ve got here, and I won them in front of empty grandstands. It goes without saying it wasn’t the same, so I’m so happy at this news – it will put a smile on everybody’s face.”

Dettori is keen to stress too it is not just the direct participants who will benefit. He went on: “It’s not just the big horses that I’ll be riding that deserve a crowd – it’s the owners of every horse who runs there over five days, (and) the breeders.

“This is why breeders and owners are involved in the game, to get to Ascot. They want that buzz. At the moment while we might still be doing the racing it’s barely any different to what it is like riding work in a morning.

“Let’s hope this is that start of getting full crowds back – it’s just brilliant, and I can’t thank those involved enough for making it happen. I’m speaking on behalf of all the jockeys really. We all can’t wait to have the crowds back.”

Meanwhile, Yorkshire-born trainer William Haggas hopes to mark the 25th anniversary of Shaamit’s win in the Epsom Derby by saddling Mohaafeth, a son of the legendary Frankel, in the celebrated Classic on Saturday week.

The Newmarket-based trainer was encouraged by the manner of the progressive colt’s workout yesterday under big race jockey Jim Crowley.

Mohaafeth is unbeaten from three starts this season, most recently an eyecatching win at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting at the start of this month.

“I think he’s got a chance but I’ve always felt that it’s not whether they’ll see it out but whether they’ll improve,” said Haggas, whose globetrotting Addeybb is regarded as the world’s best horse.

“Whether he’s better at a mile and a half than a mile and a quarter I’m not so sure, but there’s no better race in the world than the one next Saturday so we’ll be very keen to give it a go.

“The horses that seem to do well in the Derby are the likes of Ed Dunlop’s horse (John Leeper), who clearly will be better when he goes over further – he’s pretty good over a mile and a quarter but he’s going to be better when he goes over further.

“It’s an open Derby and an exciting one in the fact that it doesn’t appear to be dominated at this stage by Aidan O’Brien and it looks as though there’s a few of us who can put up a horse who could be a contender.”