Frankie Dettori can try and hide, but the bettors keep finding him.
After a four-win day Thursday, Dettori continued his dominance of Royal Ascot by riding Advertise (7-1in the U.S., 8-1 in the U.K.) to victory Friday in the $634,077 Group 1 Commonwealth Stakes, a six-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds.
Already a Group 1 winner as a 2-year-old, Advertise was no better than 10-1 in early betting. But that was before England’s most hallowed racecourse turned into the site of the Dettori Invitational.
A 15th-place finish in last month’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket kept bettors from making Advertise the favorite among the nine starters. In fact, four horses were shorter priced. But the addition of blinkers by first-time Royal Ascot-winning trainer Martyn Meade turned out to be a smart move. So did keeping Dettori in the irons despite the Guineas disappointment.
“Advertise ran a stinker in the Guineas,” Dettori said. “(Meade) decided to close his stables for a month. He knew his horses were (ill). Advertise always relaxed in his races for me, and he has gone a little the other way. That’s why he has got blinkers – just to keep him focused. (Meade) was patient. It has paid dividends.”
Sired by Showcasing and owned by fast-rising Phoenix Thoroughbred, Advertise rose a little at the start rather than bolting straight forward from the gate. But Dettori quickly tucked him into mid-pack farthest from the grandstand as the field went down the middle of the good-to-soft course.
Dettori typically bided his time before pushing the button in the last two furlongs, sending Advertise forward to what became a 1½-length victory over Forever In Dreams (22-1, 20-1), Hello Youmzain (6-1, 6-1) and the favorite Ten Sovereigns (3-5, 1-1). As patient as Dettori was, Meade admitted he was second-guessing.
“I did think, ‘What is Frankie doing now?’ because I thought he hit the front too soon,” Meade said. “But this is Frankie. He knows exactly what he is doing and what sort of horse he has underneath him.”
The winning time was 1:11.94 off honest early fractions of 25.34 (no run-up) and 47.97 seconds for the first two quarter-miles.
With seven victories this week, Dettori is on the verge of his sixth Royal Ascot riding title – but his first in 15 years. Meade is just happy that Dettori was there for Advertise’s.
“Getting Frankie back on board was not too difficult,” Meade said. “He knows how good the horse is. It was just lucky that he was available to ride him.”
Royal Ascot notes and opinions
American trainer Wesley Ward has been shut out so far during the royal meeting. His last two chances for victory come Saturday, when he saddles Bound For Nowhere (14-1) in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee and Joker On Jack (66-1) in the Chesham Stakes. Making the trip to Royal Ascot for the 11th consecutive year, Ward has won 10 times, including at least one win in each visit since 2013.
Ward’s two starters Friday failed to hit the board. Chili Petin (6-1, 22-1) and Nayibeth (5-2, 8-1) set the pace early, but they drifted to finish 12th and 13th in the opener – the $114,134 Group 3 Albany for 2-year-old fillies racing a straight six furlongs. There was an underlay on the Ward pair in the new, multinational market that included the U.S., attracting $14,813 of the $47,236 in the win pool. A winner in her debut at Newmarket last month for trainer Roger Varian, Daahyeh (5-1, 4-1) finished first in the Albany, 1½ lengths ahead of long shots Celtic Beauty (29-1, 25-1) and Aroha (99-1, 100-1).
Aidan O’Brien moved a step closer to his 10th Royal Ascot training title with the emphatic, 4½-length victory by the favorite Japan (4-5, 3-2) in the $285,334 Group 2 King Edward VII, a 1½-mile race for 3-year-old males. Jockey Ryan Moore guided the Galileo colt through an eight-horse field that did a lot of bumping coming out of the turn for home. Bangkok (12-1, 10-1) and Eagles By Day (37-1, 25-1) were second and third. The victory was the fifth this week for O’Brien, who has won the last four training championships at the royal meeting.
Moore ran his victory total to five with the King Edward win and, in the finale, with Baghdad (7-2, 7-2). He held on for a nose win over Dettori and Ben Vrackie (7-1, 7-1) in the $114,134 Duke of Edinburgh, a 1½-mile handicap for 3-year-olds and up. Moore trails Dettori by two wins in his quest for a sixth straight riding championship and his ninth overall at Royal Ascot.
The French long shot Watch Me (32-1, 20-1) made a late burst to win the $634,077 Group 1 Coronation for 3-year-old fillies racing a right-turn mile. The victory for trainer Francis-Henri Graffard and jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot was the first this week for a horse that trains outside England and Ireland. English and Irish guineas winner Hermosa (3-5, 1-1), the heavy favorite racing for Coolmore, was 1½ lengths behind in second. Jubiloso (5-1, 9-2) finished another length back in third.
Hayley Turner became the first woman in 32 years and only the second ever to ride a winner at Royal Ascot. A two-time Group 1 winner before a retirement that ended last year, Turner, 36, guided Thanks Be (19-1, 33-1) between horses on the way to winning the $114,134 Sandringham, a handicap for 27 fillies at age 3. Riding Sprowston Boy, a horse that her father trained, Gay Kelleway was the only other female jockey to win at the royal meeting, doing so in the 1987 Queen Alexandra.
U.S. racing notes and opinions
Already reeling from a watered-down Triple Crown season, the 3-year-old division that needed a good shot of summertime momentum took two big hits in the past week with the benching of two of the three classic winners. Just 1½ weeks after finishing first in the Belmont Stakes, Sir Winston has been sidelined with what trainer Mark Casse told the Daily Racing Form was a minor injury to the colt’s left, front ankle. That means Sir Winston will not race as hoped come August in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, N.Y. Casse said he hopes for an autumn campaign that will build toward the Pegasus World Cup Invitational next January at Gulfstream Park, Florida.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said that Kentucky Derby winner Country House’s year is probably over. “Right now we’d have trouble making the Travers or the Breeders’ Cup,” Mott told NBCSN last Saturday night at Churchill Downs. “We’re probably not going to see him back to the races until next year. He just wasn’t as eager to get into his training as he had been.” Within 72 hours of Maximum Security’s disqualification that turned him into the Derby winner, Country House developed a fever and cough and has not raced since.
The Travers annually tends to wilt from the highest of hopes to the low of attrition-based reality. Preakness winner War Of Will could still land there. The question now is what other 3-year-olds will fill the field. For now Game Winner (4-1), fifth in the Kentucky Derby, and Tacitus (4-1), runner-up in the Belmont, are the early co-favorites in European wagering according to Oddschecker. Scratched Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach (13-2), Pegasus Stakes upset victim Maximum Security (10-1) and War Of Will (10-1) are also among the top five betting choices.
Oh, let’s not forget Global Campaign. Because of the flare-up of an old quarter crack, the colt that defeated Country House last month to win the Peter Pan was scratched from this weekend’s $500,000 Grade 3 Ohio Derby near Cleveland. That leaves three colts and three geldings to start the 1⅛-mile dirt race at Thistledown on Saturday at 5:10 p.m. EDT. Trained by Brad Cox and ridden again by Florent Geroux, morning-line favorite Owendale (9-5) won the Lexington Stakes before closing to finish third last month in the Preakness. Rebel Stakes winner Long Range Toddy (5-2) comes back from being one of the victims of Maximum Security’s Kentucky Derby interference. Back for Saturday’s ride, jockey Jon Court was one of the two jockeys that protested at Churchill Downs, even though Long Range Toddy was going backward on the way to finishing 17th, er, 16th. Starting from the outside post, the undefeated gelding Bethlehem Road (6-1) will set the early pace. The questions are whether his new jockey Dee Curry can rein him from setting a blazing pace and whether his graduation from a $75,000 stakes win at Parx will be successful. The bet here is that he can, especially if all the money comes in on Owendale and Long Range Toddy.
What else is new in a big, east-coast turf race? A Chad Brown horse is favored. This time it is Grade 2 winner Focus Group (2-1) that is atop the morning line at Monmouth Park, N.J., for this weekend’s $300,000 Grade 1 United Nations Stakes, a 1⅜-mile, three-turn race for older horses. Of the four geldings, three horses and one colt that are entered, Focus Group is one of the five closers. But the 5-year-old sired by Kitten’s Joy and ridden by José Ortiz has lost two of the last three times he was favored. The 8-year-old rail starter Bigger Picture (3-1) finished third in this race last year and has two graded wins in three starts this year for trainer Mike Maker. Despite finishing fifth in the Manhattan on Belmont Stakes day, Channel Maker (7-2) will go without blinkers for a second straight race for trainer Todd Pletcher and his new jockey Luís Sáez. Zulu Alpha (4-1) is the “other Maker” after having won the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida three races ago in March at Gulfstream Park. If he is guided into mid-pack by Channing Hill, then this 6-year-old gelding might get first run and win the race. The price may not be great, but Zulu Alpha will be at the top of my United Nations ticket. After some Friday rain, the course should come up good Saturday, when the race is posted for 5:28 p.m. EDT.
Ron Flatter’s racing column appears daily during Royal Ascot. It is normally posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. This week’s edition features trainer Doug O’Neill talking about the ups and downs of a trying but successful season at Santa Anita. SiriusXM FC’s Tommy Smyth with a “Y” shares some betting stories, including his simple strategy for wagering on the horses. The RFRP is also available via Apple, Google and Stitcher.