Frankie Dettori was the star of the show on the track on Wednesday at Royal Ascot, riding to a big race double in testing conditions on the second day of the 2019 Royal Meeting. Off the track, our racegoers shone as usual with their style and elegance, and, despite the intermittently heavy showers, spirits remained high on an afternoon to remember.
The popular Italian jockey, who famously rode all seven winners here at a fixture in 1996, got off to a dream start in the opening Queen Mary Stakes. Always in the front rank aboard the Mark Johnston-trained Raffle Prize, the duo repelled the transatlantic challenge of Kimari and jockey John Velazquez to claim the Group 2 contest for two-year-old fillies.
But the best was yet to come for Dettori. Not many jockeys have ridden this racecourse as well as him, and he used all of his experience to produce a canny winning ride on Crystal Ocean in the day’s feature race, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Getting first run on the rest of the field, and capitalising on his willing partner’s guaranteed stamina over the ten-furlong distance, Dettori powered Crystal Ocean home to give the horse his first ever win at Group 1 level. Crystal Ocean’s versatility regarding ground and tactics proved decisive and his victory gave Sir Michael Stoute his 80th Royal Ascot success as a trainer – more wins than anyone else in the long history of the Royal Meeting.
In the day’s second race, Andrew Balding’s Dashing Willoughby advertsised his St Leger credentials with a gutsy win in the Queen’s Vase. Later on, trainer William Haggas, whose star filly Sea of Class had been beaten in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, gained compensation in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes in the shape of another filly, Move Swiftly.
The most thrilling finish of the day came in the Royal Hunt Cup. After a strongly-run mile in soft ground, Afaak and Clon Coulis were separated by a matter of inches at the finish line, with the former prevailing by a short head.
The day's action was completed by another two-year-old race, this time for colts. Southern Hills had previously failed to win from to previous career starts, but he broke his maiden in fine style, giving trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore their third winner of the week so far – returning them to the top of the trainer and jockey standings respectively.