By Tony Elves
Frankie Dettori will be forever remembered for his “Magnificent Seven” at Ascot in 1996 but could well complete another magnificent seven if he succeeds in the Group 1 Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday.
Final riding plans for the final Classic have still to be determined but he’s set to be called up for Aidan O’Brien for Town Moor and the possibility is that Dettori could ride ante-post favourite Santiago in the race.
Watch every race of the Pertemps St Leger Festival 2020 live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) from Wednesday 9th to Saturday 12th September.
Dettori partnered Wichita for the Ballydoyle team in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, and was beaten just a head by Kameko, and his talents have been utilised on many of the big days.
His first notable association with Aidan O’Brien came back in 2005 when there had been something of a cold war between Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and Scorpion was certainly something of a sting in the tail when he provided Dettori with a third Leger success.
Dettori’s first win had been in the more familiar Godolphin silks in 1995 and his second success on Shantou 12 months later was a hallmark victory as it provided John Gosden with his first domestic Classic.
There was another notable landmark success in 2008 when Dettori ended a long wait for St Leger success for Sir Michael Stoute when partnering Conduit to a three-length victory and two years previously Dettori had been very much the hero of the hour when landing the race on Sixties Icon for Jeremy Noseda, with whom he had a long association.
It was back to familiar territory when Frankie teamed up again with John Gosden and Logician provided him with a sixth success 12 months ago and the nation’s favourite jockey is looking forward to his week ahead at Doncaster.
Dettori said “I have no idea at the moment what I will ride but Aidan told me not to take another ride as you’ll ride one of mine. It’s the world’s oldest Classic and it’s been a lucky race for me as I’ve won it six times and, as always, we will give our best shot.”
FRANKIE DETTORI’S SIX ST LEGER WINNERS
CLASSIC CLICHE (1995)
Winner of the Group 2 Dante Stakes on his reappearance at York in May 1995, Classic Cliche was to start favourite for the St Leger despite tasting defeat in his three races prior to the oldest Classic.
However, his efforts beforehand very underlined the likelihood that the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained colt would be ideally suited by the rigours of the mile and six and half furlong contest at Doncaster in September.
A trademark performance when a staying on fourth, beaten two and a half lengths, to Celtic Swing in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey at Chantilly in June was followed by another effort that suggested stamina was going to be his strong suit when runner-up, beaten two and a half lengths, to Pentire in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot later that month when ridden by Dettori for the first time.
Classic Cliche’s next appointment prior to the St Leger was in the Irish Derby at the Curragh at the beginning of July and, once again, he was doing his best work in the closing stages when fifth, beaten three and a half lengths, to Winged Love.
That gave Bin Suroor over five weeks to fresh up his Leger contender for the big occasion and it became apparent from the start that Dettori was going to make much use of his mount’s stamina in an event that can often prove gruelling for the Classic generation.
Ten runners went to post for the race and Classic Cliche was soon tracking the front-running Jural under Jason Weaver but with a half a mile to travel Dettori was taking no prisoners as he surged to the front on the 100-30 favourite. His mount answered his every call as he went clear of his rivals two furlongs out and galloped on relentlessly to the line for a three and a half lengths success from Minds Music.
Dettori said: “He was my 1000th winner when landing the St Leger and my great friend Willie Ryan finished runner-up on Minds Music. I knew he would stay really well so I had no hesitation in kicking early and he had the race in the bag in the final two furlongs. He went onto beat Double Trigger in the Ascot Gold Cup the following year and also finished runner-up to Pentire in the King George And Queen Elizabeth Stakes he was a very durable horse.”
By the dual Arc-winner Alleged out of the Luca Cumani-trained Shaima who won a Grade 2 over a mile and a half at Belmont Park on her final start, you could say that Shantou had the perfect breeding to succeed in the St Leger but the early signs were not that encouraging.
Shantou had to wait until his third career start at Sandown in May to break his maiden tag and although taking a major leap forward when finishing third, beaten two and a half lengths, to Shaamit in the 1996 Derby he was to meet with reverses at a lower level in his next two starts.
The race may have come too early after his exertions in the Derby when Shantou finished third, beaten three quarters of a length, to Amfortas in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot but a reverse in a listed event at Haydock when beaten three and a half lengths to Royal Court was not the form associated with a Leger winner.
However, given a near seven-week break, it was a taste of things to come as Shantou gained a lovely confidence booster as he only had to be pushed out to score by three and a half lengths, to Double Leaf in a conditions event at Windsor.
The formbook suggested that Shantou would be pushed to reverse a length and a quarter deficit in the Derby and when the Epsom runner-up and 2-1 favourite surged to the front two furlongs out the writing was on the wall.
However, that final furlong at Doncaster has been the undoing of some of the best of the three-year-old generation, and as the leaders stamina started to flail it was Dettori on the 8-1 shot who had all the answers, and poked his mount’s head in front close home to score by a neck and provide trainer John Gosden with his first domestic Classic.
Dettori said: “That was the Derby form and Pat Eddery was second on Dushyantor and we were the better stayer as I produced him to lead near the line and win a neck. That was good for John and he was a very hard horse to train and John trained him in his back yard. He wouldn’t get out the stable and was a handful to ride but also very talented. He only cantered around the back of Stanley House and go up the wood chip and was a quirky customer.”
Runner-up, beaten half a length, to subsequent Arc and King George winner Hurricane Run the Irish Derby at the Curragh in June 2005, Scorpion went into the St Leger with much the best credentials but what was more surprising was the recruitment of Dettori for the ride at Doncaster bearing in mind his long association with Coolmore’s arch rivals Godolphin.
After the Irish Derby, Scorpion went out to prove his Group 1 credentials when scoring by two and a half lengths from Desideratum in the Grand Prix de Paris over a mile and a half at Longchamp in July and the heavy ground at Doncaster on Leger day was no deterrent to his supporters as he skipped through the mud when winning in similar conditions at Leopardstown in May on his debut as a three-year-old.
Sent of the 10-11 favourite, Dettori set out his game plan from the outset as he took the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt to the front and his only moment of concern was when his mount jinked and brushed the rail just inside the final furlong. The Geezer came from out of the pack to narrow the gap to a length near the line but those who had taken the odds had few moments of concern.
Dettori said “I was meant to ride Motivator in the Irish Champion Stakes and I rode him in work and wasn’t happy with him so I rang Aidan O’Brien and told him I was available to ride. I was trying to do the best for my career by winning the St Leger and looking at his form he stood out. The ground was desperately heavy that day but the only hiccup I had was when he lost his footing in the ground in the closing stages brushed the rail. As it was, Motivator was beaten in the Irish Champion Stakes, so I had, thankfully, made the correct decision.”
SIXTIES ICON (2006)
Dettori had a nine-year wait to notch his third Leger winner in Scorpion but he was back the following season when a long association with Jeremy Noseda netted a fourth triumph in the shape of Sixties Icon.
Like Shantou, Sixties Icon’s pedigree has St Leger winner written all over it as he was by Galileo out Oaks winner Love Divine and, unraced at two, he finished a creditable seventh, beaten five and a half lengths, to Sir Percy in the 2006 Derby on the back of a Windsor maiden success.
He could only finish third, beaten two and three quarter lengths, to Papal Bull in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot later that month but looked a different horse when partnered by Dettori for the first time in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood in August.
Always travelling supremely well, the 7-4 favourite was always in command in the final furlong as he strode out for a length and three quarter success from Jadalee in what looked the most informative St Leger trial.
With Doncaster closed for redevelopment, the world’s oldest Classic was staged at York and Dettori had few anxious moments as he came through to lead on the bit two furlongs out and soon came clear to record a two and a half length success from The Last Drop.
Frankie said: “I was in two minds in 2006 as I didn’t know which one was best between Sixties Icon and Red Rocks and had the choice of either. Jeremy kept on going on about how much Sixties Icon had improved and I rode him in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood and he bolted up. That made my mind up and the long straight at York suited him admirably. I wasn’t sure if Red Rocks would stay the trip but I was sure that Sixties Icon would get it and I was right. He was always going well in the race and won comfortably again much to my delight.”
Conduit had much humbler beginnings than most St Leger winners as his maiden success came over an extended mile on the polytrack at Wolverhampton in September of his two-year-old season on his third start.
A third placing to stablemate Colony in a mile and a half handicap at Sandown in April 2008 off a mark of 79 hardly spelt Leger winner but that run had clearly proved a wake up call and he bolted up by six lengths in a traditionally competitive handicap at Epsom on Derby Day.
That victory heralded a major step up in class in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and is proof was needed of his ascendancy it was given when he finished runner-up, beaten three quarters of a length to Campanologist.
Conduit was then sent off a 1-2 favourite for the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood and came through to lead in the final strides for a head success from Donegal which augered well for his chances over the Leger distance.
Ryan Moore, who had ridden Conduit at Goodwood, elected to ride Doctor Fremantle in the Prince Khalid Abdullah colours for his boss Sir Michael Stoute in the Leger, but it was Dettori who provided the Freemason Lodge trainer with a first success in the final Classic.
The 8-1 shot was always travelling sweetly and soon settled the argument as he swept to front over two furlongs from home and scored by three lengths from Unsung Hero with Oaks heroine Look Here another three and a quarter lengths back in third.
Dettori said: “I had to thank Ryan (Moore) there as he had a difficult choice to make between Doctor Fremantle for Prince Khalid Abdullah or Conduit. He went into the race under the radar a bit and he absolutely bolted up. I was laughing and joking with Sir Michael Stoute afterwards and said you had Walter (Swinburn), Lester (Piggott), Greville (Starkey), Pat (Eddery) and Steve (Cauthen) and Ryan all riding for you and the little old Italian comes around and does it for you!
Nine years was a long time between Dettori’s second and third success in the Leger but it was an 11-year gap for win number six courtesy of Logician in 2019.
Unraced as a two-year-old, the Frankel colt was to end his first season with, like his sire, an unblemished record on the racecourse. Victory number one was a two-length success from High Commision in a ten-furlong maiden at Newbury in May and was follow up by a similar effort in a novice event at Newmarket in June.
Trainer John Gosden must have been rubbing his eyes in disbelief when Logician was given a handicap mark of 90 on the back of those performances and starting at 1-5 he waved goodbye to the handicap division with an easy four and a half length victory from Natty Night on his step up to a mile and a half at Newbury in July.
The next step up was the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York and he made himself favourite for the Leger when sweeping a length and a quarter success from Constantinople in the traditional St Leger trial.
Not many St Leger are on won in smooth-as-silk style but Dettori had few anxious moments on the 5-6 shot as he cruised to the front over a furlong out and went onto record a two and a half length win from Sir Ron Priestley.
“He was some improving horse and he won the Leger really well. I remember thinking it was strange the John Gosden made me go and ride a 90-rated handicapper at Newbury on a Wednesday evening when he was 1-5 favourite and asked why one of the other boys weren’t riding it. He said 'no you go and ride him' and it soon became apparent why he had sent me as his next race was in the Great Voltigeur which he just took in his stride and never gave me a moment’s worry in the St Leger.”