Sport Horse Racing

Monday 16 December 2019

Dettori prepared to go the distance

Thomas Kelly

Frankie Dettori has likened Saturday's King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot to a heavyweight boxing contest.

The Italian could land the telling knockout blow onboard Mahmood Al Zarooni's Rewilding, although there are other big punchers in there with the likes of Workforce and Aidan O'Brien's St Nicholas Abbey.

Dettori has already won the midsummer showpiece four times, but his admiration for the race has never wavered ever since it was one of only three big European contests he watched as a child growing up in Milan.

Rewilding lowered the colours of O'Brien's great Australian import So You Think in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, adding to his victory in the Dubai Sheema Classic.

With the Ascot win under his belt, confidence is high in the Godolphin camp. "He's been a great horse for me. He's hard as nails. He's not very big, but his courage is fantastic," said Dettori.

"What a great race it is. As a child I was only able to watch three races in Milan -- the Derby, the King George and the Arc, so for me, watching races as a kid was like watching races on the moon.

"It looks one of the best renewals for years. The great thing about the King George is that it's a man's race, it's a tough track with an uphill finish and only the good ones come through.

"It's like 12 rounds of a heavyweight boxing match -- there is nowhere to hide, three furlongs out the gloves come off and only the best come through, that's why it's so special."

Meanwhile, the build-up for next week's Sussex Stakes duel at Goodwood is already gathering momentum and Richard Hughes admits he has trod carefully around the stewards in the run-up to the showdown.

Hughes is due to take the plum ride on Canford Cliffs as he faces Henry Cecil's 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes winner Frankel in the mile feature. But, after the Kildare-born rider missed the July meeting at Newmarket due to suspension, Hughes was not prepared to sit out the action as Canford Cliffs bids to extend his five-race unbeaten streak.

Victorious in both the Lockinge and Queen Anne Stakes, when he claimed the scalp of 13-times Group One winner Goldikova, Hughes believes Canford Cliffs is a dream of a horse.


"All my life I have looked for a horse like Canford Cliffs and I was not going to miss the ride on him -- I won't get another chance," he said.

"I can't wait for the Sussex Stakes. Canford Cliffs is the best I've ever ridden -- I have ridden some good horses in my career, but the first time I sat on this lad, I had never ridden anything like him."

The colt's trainer Richard Hannon holds a similarly high opinion of his charge, but put forward a cautionary view of his four-year-old's record when racing downhill.

Recalling last year's 2,000 Guineas and Sussex Stakes, Hannon said: "I would like a good gallop with the other horse (Frankel) leaving the gate as fast as possible. Then it won't matter.

"I'm just a bit worried about that dip down the hill coming into the straight. He didn't like it too much last year. He didn't seem to like it in the Guineas either."

Hannon added he would welcome the chance of running "the best I've ever trained" over a mile and a quarter, pointing towards the Breeders' Cup, Japan and Hong Kong as possible options towards the end of the year. Cecil's Frankel is rated the 5/6 favourite with Canford Cliffs a 6/5 chance.

Closer to home, the John Morrison-trained Much Acclaimed landed a nice touch at Ballinrobe last night when making a winning debut over timber in the Mayo News Maiden Hurdle.

Morrison's charge had been available at 33/1 in the morning, but he was sent off 14/1 on course. Paddy Mangan sent his mount on turning for home in the two-miler, but he was soon tackled by In A Nutshell.

The pair battled it out from the last, with Much Acclaimed getting on top close to home for a length-and-a-half success. "Today was the plan. It might not have been the strongest race, but he'll make a nice hurdler," said Morrison's representative Darren Pratt.

In the conditions novice hurdle, the Willie Mullins-trained Sicilian Secret looked a class act as he easily saw off Ninth Legion, despite drifting in the market.

David Casey settled his mount in third before tackling front-runner Ninth Legion on the bend for home and the rider never had to move a muscle as he cantered to a five-length success.

Jessica Harrington's hot favourite Seader was made to work hard to land the odds in the Mayo Maiden Hurdle.

Approaching the straight, Barry Geraghty's mount looked to have an uphill battle with Minella King, but once he straightened up for home, the odds-on shot chased down his rival to win by just over a length.

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