June 20 (UPI) -- The middle day of Royal Ascot officially is Ladies Day but, in point of fact, Thursday's renewal turned into Frankie Dettori Day as the red-hot rider brought home the winner in the day's first four races, including Stradivarius in the featured Gold Cup.
Dettori, with the crowd roaring louder at each win, advanced his total Royal Ascot score to 66 winners and his Gold Cup total to seven. And, until the final yards, it appeared he would win a fifth straight race on the day's program.
With the weather finally breaking from gray and rainy skies, Her Majesty the Queen arrived for Ladies Day in a gunmetal gray ensemble, accented with bright floral accents. But no accent was brighter on the day than the 48-year-old Italian rider.
After his second and third winners on the card, Dettori said he was hoping he hadn't used up all his luck before taking a leg up from trainer John Gosden on Stradivarius in the Gold Cup. And after racing comfortably behind the leaders in that 2 1/2-miles staying test, is looked briefly if he had in fact jinxed himself.
As the sprint to the finish got under way, Stradivarius was in a spot of trouble, well boxed in behind the leaders and with another rival, Capri, pinning him to the rail.
But it was Dettori's day and, on cue, an opening appeared as Capri began to tire. Stradivarius ran to daylight and it was clear with a furlong to run that Stradivarius was a repeat winner and Dettori had his seventh Gold Cup, 66th Royal Ascot win and fourth from four starts on the day.
"He rode a beautiful race," trainer John Gosden said of Dettori. "He was held in there by Capri but then he saw the light. It was a long wait but the horse is very classy."
Classy indeed. Stradivarius now has won seven straight races and is well on his way to capturing the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers' Million bonus for the second year in a row for his owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen.
"He's not a typical type for these staying races," Gosden said. But he likes getting into a fight. He's not the type of chap you'd like to go out at night to a bar with because he'd be likely to get in to a fight. He'd probably win, though."
Nielsen said he was sharing Dettori's hopes that luck had not run out after the first three races.
"During the third race I was saying to myself, 'Get back, Frankie', because I did not believe he could win four races in a row," the owner said. "He's riding so confidently, and he rode Stradivarius confidently."
Stradivarius, a 5-year-old son of Sea the Stars, overcame not only soft turf but a field of proven quality. Dee Ex Bee, who finished second, was the runner-up in last year's Derby. Cross Counter, a late-running fourth in the Gold Cup, accounted for the Group 1 Melbourne Cup in Australia and the Group 1 Dubai Gold Cup in his two previous starts.
As the day unfolded:
A'Ali made steady progress up the middle of the course through the middle furlongs of the day-opening Group 2 Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds, shook clear in the final furlong and held off Ventura Rebel by a neck. Those two were well in front of the rest of the field as A'Ali finished the 5 furlongs on good to soft turf in 1:01.96 with Dettori in the irons for trainer Simon Crisford.
Maven, a son of U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, was a non-starter in the Norfolk. Trainer Wesley Ward said after walking the soft turf course he preferred to give the colt his first stakes chance on firmer ground.
A'Ali, second in his only previous race, was the first maiden to win the Norfolk in 29 years but Crisford said he decided to bring the Irish-bred Society Rock colt to Ascot because of how he ran in his first start, rather than the outcome. "I saw how he galloped out that day," the trainer said. "He galloped out beautifully and I said, 'We've go to go.'"
In the event, Dettori said, "He did everything like a professional."
A'Ali earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in November through the Challenge program. Whether he takes that option will be up to his owner, Sheik Duaij Al Khalifa.
Dettori struck again in the day's second race, finding just enough room for Sangarius to spring free in the stretch run of the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes for 3-year-olds, then sprinting clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Fox Chairman, didn't get the same break in traffic and settled for second with King Ottokar third. Her Majesty's runner, Eightsome Reel, made a late run but could not overcome a very wide trip, finishing fourth.
"He had to get through a small gap," said Dettori, looking forward two races to his ride on defending champion Stradivarius in the Gold Cup. "I hope I haven't used up all my luck."
Sangarius, a Juddmonte Farms homebred colt by Kingman, won his first two starts last year, then finished fourth in the Darley Dewhurst behind Too Darn Hot. He was third in his 2019 debut.
Dettori ran his streak to three aboard Star Catcher in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Emerging from mid-pack on the daughter of Sea the Stars, Dettori hit the front early in the stretch run. The favorite, Fleeting, after racing near the back of the field, made a late run under Ryan Moore but never got to terms with Star Catcher, finishing 1 1/2 lengths back in second.
Star Catcher started the day at odds of 11-1 as she had only one win from three previous starts and skipped the Oaks. But, as Dettori eased into the zone, her odds dropped quickly to a final 4-1.
Winning trainer John Gosden said after Star Catcher won for the first time, "Frankie said, 'Don't go to the Oaks. Go to the Ribblesdale. She hasn't got the strength for the Oaks.'"
After the virtuoso performance aboard Stradivarius, Dettori briefly looked to be a five-time winner on the day, sending Turgenev out to a daylight lead with a furlong to run in the Brittania Handicap for 3-year-olds. But Biometric, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, was closing quickly under Harry Bentley and got by to win by 1 1/4 lengths with Turgenev second.
Biometric, a son of Bated Breath, had won two of three starts coming into the Brittania and finished second in the other. "I'm sorry to spoil Frankie's party but that's horses," said winning trainer Ralph Beckett. "I think me and my family were the only people on the racecourse shouting."
"Twenty years ago, I'd have won that," joked Dettori, admitting he might have made his move too early.
Gosden, however, said age does not seem to be a concern for Dettori, who said he plans to continue riding at least to age 50.
The day's finale, the 1 1/2-miles King George V for 3-year-olds, Coolmore and trainer Aidan O'Brien finished 1-2-3 with South Pacific running well late to win over Constantinople and Eminence. South Pacific and Constantinople are both sired by the Coolmore star Galileo. Eminence is by Sea the Stars.
Dettori's mount in the King George, Questionare, was never involved and was eased through the final furlongs.
"I want some more races! Why are we stopping?" the ever-enthusiastic Dettori asked in a day-ending interview with NBC-TV's Nick Luck and Britney Eurton.