Dettori earns Royal Ascot redemption on brilliant Inspiral after wretched week

Sport

It had been, as Frankie Dettori admitted afterwards, “a tough week for me and a tough week for [John Gosden’s] Clarehaven” before the Coronation Stakes here on Friday, but his difficulties on Thursday were largely consigned to history in the afternoon’s feature race, as Inspiral stormed past her field and into an unassailable lead to give both jockey and trainer their first winner of this year’s Royal meeting.

It was as impressive a victory as any this week, adding another outstanding miler and potential 10-furlong horse to a division that already includes Baaeed and Coroebus. And it was particularly satisfying for Inspiral’s connections, who had steered her around the 1,000 Guineas in England, Ireland and France as they felt she simply was not ready to reproduce her dominant juvenile form.

The race did not go entirely to plan. “When she fell out of the stalls,” Dettori said, “I thought, ‘oh no, here we go again, it’s one of those races’.” But when he needed a gap, he found one and Inspiral grabbed it with an electrifying burst that had the race won in a matter of strides.

“I took my time, I took a chance on the inside and I got the splits,” Dettori said. “Wow! What an engine.

“You need a good horse to do that and she really took off, to the point that I was able to enjoy the last 50 yards for once.”

Thursday night, he conceded, had been difficult, having been beaten into second place on two horses owned by the Queen and finishing third on the hugely popular Stradivarius as he attempted to win a record-equalling fourth Gold Cup.

“I had a banging headache last night,” he said. “You’ve got to put it behind you. I must say the first hour of this morning was difficult. I was still thinking about it, but then I studied the form and I thought, ‘it’s time to concentrate, I’ve got some chances. It’s gone.’

“You’ve got to cancel it out, you can’t read too much into it, things that people are saying. It’s gone now.”

The defeat of the ever-popular Stradivarius in Thursday’s Gold Cup still seemed to be preying on Gosden’s mind a little, along with Saga’s failed attempt to get up in the Britannia Handicap, as he suggested in a post-race interview that his stable jockey had had a “monkey on his back”.

“I was talking to the jockey [after the Coronation] who’d stopped waving for a second and getting the monkey off his back which was strangling him quite tight,” Gosden said, “and he thinks she could step up in trip if we wanted to.

“You can’t keep looking back, you discuss it, you deal with it and you move on. Horses are coming, they need your full attention and they don’t need you wandering around with your lip dropped down.

“You just get on with it and the great thing is that Stradivarius is in great form this morning and Saga, who should have won [the Britannia Handicap], as far as he’s concerned, he did win, so we leave it at that.”

Inspiral has two potential targets at Glorious Goodwood next month, in the Sussex Stakes over a mile – where Baaeed and Coroebus are potential rivals – and also in the Nassau Stakes for fillies and mares over 10 furlongs. She could also take on older horses for the first time in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket’s July Festival, for which she is now odds-on with the bookmakers at around 4-7.

“What a difference another month has made,” Gosden said. “Mrs [Patricia] Thompson [Inspiral’s owner] has been incredibly patient because obviously she was favourite for the 1,000 Guineas.

“We were going to go there and she wasn’t quite right, and then we were going to go to the Irish Guineas, we were talking about the French and it was going on and on. She was like a bud that was very tight, she just wouldn’t blossom for spring and summer, but she showed what she can do when she’s right.”

Earlier on the card, Christophe Soumillon rode his first Royal Ascot winner for seven years and only the third of his hugely successful career as he delivered Perfect Power with an irresistible run to beat Flaming Rib and Flotus in the Commonwealth Cup.

Richard Fahey’s colt was dropping back in trip after finishing seventh in the 2,000 Guineas and he surged into the lead well inside the final furlong before holding off Flaming Rib – owned by the former England striker, Michael Owen – by one-and-a-quarter lengths.

“It is very special to win here,” Soumillon said. “That is why you have to be very humble when you come over here, as it is the toughest place to win races. When you have the chance to ride a great horse for great owners and a great trainer, you have to put it all together.”

The Queen, however, can only pin her hopes on King’s Lynn, a 40-1 outsider for Saturday’s Platinum Jubilee Stakes, in her search for a 25th winner at the meeting after all three of her runners on Friday’s card were beaten.