Saturday 17 August 2019

Dettori brilliance claims Oaks

Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the Kerrygold Irish Oaks with connections of Star Catcher. Photo: Patrick McCann
Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the Kerrygold Irish Oaks with connections of Star Catcher. Photo: Patrick McCann

Daragh ó Conchúir

Frankie Dettori treated Curragh patrons to a masterclass as he bagged his fifth Kerrygold Irish Oaks with a wonderful front-running ride on Star Catcher for trainer John Gosden and owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer.

An impressive winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, Star Catcher had to be supplemented for this contest but the €40,000 investment paid off as Dettori ended a week, which included a first visit to Killarney, with another classic success and with it the €228,000 prize for an Irish Oaks victory.

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The pace was far less frenetic early on than was the case in the Irish Derby, as Dettori dictated once he got to the front.

Star Catcher relaxed wonderfully before responding as Dettori gradually wound her up before the turn in and she established a three-length lead just inside the two-furlong poll, that never looked like being reeled in.

Donnacha O'Brien galvanised Fleeting for a late rally but though the Ballydoyle filly got to within a half-length at the line, the winner had flown.

Epsom runner-up Pink Dogwood was third, having been held up at the back by Ryan Moore.

"I think Frankie was aware that his filly showed her best in the last furlong of the Ribblesdale and he was determined not to see a falsely-run race and he's gone out there set his own fractions off the bend," remarked Gosden, who was winning the Oaks for the third time.

"She's a lovely filly. She's really done well since Royal Ascot. It just seemed an obvious thing to come here. It's a classic, a Group 1 and it's the Irish Oaks. And Mr Oppenheimer was brave to put the money up.

"They do close these races too soon in my opinion, which is why I never have entries in them. I always wind up having to supplement if I have something good enough."

Gosden, who was assistant to the legendary Vincent O'Brien prior to enjoying a successful training career in America, reminisced on his long relationship with Dettori. "We've been lucky to have him and he'll be the first to tell you he went through some difficult times, mostly self-inflicted, but he's a wonderful person to be around," he said.

"He's like family to us. I remember him hiding in the back of the car in the dark at Santa Anita because he was too young and didn't have a licence to work there.

"He's a gorgeous rider and knows his horses. When he's with you working them in the morning he nearly wants to train them so I have to calm him down and say, 'I'm not going to ride them, so you can't train them'." It was a second consecutive winner for Sea The Stars, who sired last year's recently-retired victor Sea The Class.

Earlier on the card, last year's Irish 2000 Guineas Romanised bounced back from an unlucky fourth at Royal Ascot to claim the Group 2 Paddy Power Minstrel Stakes.

Ken Condon's charge recovered from a poor break and was ridden ultra- confidently by in-form pilot Billy Lee, to reel in the Frankie Dettori-ridden favourite Hey Gaman.

"He looked very impressive there," said Condon of the four-year-old, who now heads to the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville in three weeks.

"Billy was very cool on him. Frankie's a dangerous man to give too much rope to but the horse, I thought, when the gap came he quickened up lovely and ran to the line straight and true so we're delighted with that."

Another Curragh-based handler Michael Grassick enjoyed success in the €125,000 Tote Scurry Handicap courtesy of Verhoyen, making it a birthday to remember for one of the four owners, Paul Cullen.

It was jockey Rory Cleary's first time to be legged up on the four-year-old and came just a week after he escaped a potentially serious injury.

"This day last week I was lying up in a hospital after getting a fall in Navan and I was stood down for the week," said Cleary. "This was my first ride back on this lad so it's grand to start back with a winner."

Roman Turbo, backed in to 6/1 from 16/1, landed the spoils in the Group 3 Jebel Ali Racecourse Anglesey Stakes for the Michael Halford-Ronan Whelan axis.

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