‘Not too fast, not too slow’: Frankie Dettori’s Mostahdaf masterclass

The retiring legend continued his farewell tour with a record-breaking sixth Juddmonte International Stakes win that brought to mind some of the greatest upsets in the race’s history.

Frankie Dettori acknowledges the crowd after Mostahdaf's victory in the G1 Juddmonte International Stakes. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

David Morgan

Chief Journalist


It’s not possible to get through Ebor week at York without someone mentioning Braulio Baeza’s impeccable winning ride on Roberto, all of 51 years ago. This time it was Frankie Dettori recalling the brilliant Panamanian jockey’s great claim to fame in Britain.

“It reminds me a bit of Roberto and Brigadier Gerard,” he said after guiding the Shadwell homebred Mostahdaf through perfectly-judged fractions on the front end to defeat Ballydoyle’s 4-6 favourite Paddington in the G1 Juddmonte International Stakes.

Paddington is no ‘Brigadier,’ but he is Europe’s star three-year-old this summer, with four Group 1 wins on the trot before meeting Mostahdaf. So, when Dettori – standing in for the suspended Jim Crowley – executed his make-all tactic to floor the hot favourite, the comparison was an obvious one to make.


“I didn’t mess around: it’s basically keep the revs on the edge, don’t overdo it so you don’t die and don’t underdo it so they catch you,” Dettori explained.

“Key was trying to get the fractions right, not too fast, not too slow, and thank God, after 36 years I’ve learned … (two furlongs out) I expected (Paddington) to be at my quarters and I had two lengths rope, and I thought, oof, they’re not going to catch me now.”

Paddington’s defeat – edged into third by Mostahdaf’s running-on stablemate Nashwa – upheld a tradition of hot-pots coming a cropper in the Knavesmire’s grandest feature: as 3-1 second pick in a field of four, Mostahdaf was hardly the latest Terimon, another famous front-running victor of days past that scored at longshot odds of 16-1, but the five-year-old’s win was an upset nonetheless.  

It was also yet another franking of the Japanese superstar Equinox’s form. Mostahdaf was seven lengths fourth behind the world’s highest rated horse over 2400 metres in Dubai in March, but has since won the G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes by four, and now ‘the Juddmonte’, both at around 2000 metres.

Frankie Dettori and Mostahdaf defeat Hollie Doyle and Nashwa in the Juddmonte. (Photo by Mike Egerton/Getty Images)

Mostahdaf and Jim Crowley take out the G1 Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. (Photo by David Davies/Getty Images)

The Frankel entire’s co-trainer John Gosden is now looking towards the G1 Irish Champion Stakes at the same distance next month, but a rematch with Paddington is not on the cards according to the latter’s trainer Aidan O’Brien.

That was the one definite among maybes in the master trainer’s post-race assessment.

“Maybe it was just a race too much,” O’Brien said. “He had a tough race the last day (in the Sussex Stakes), we had to fight horses off twice in soft ground; maybe I just pushed him a little bit too far, and maybe I should have waited and gone to Leopardstown and given him a little bit more time to recover, but that’s the way it is.

“He definitely won’t go to the Irish Champion after that … Sometimes you can stretch the elastic band too much. I would have to say maybe I shouldn’t have run him; maybe I should have given him more time.”

As for Dettori, his time is running out as he enters the final months of his long goodbye, with retirement looming ever closer.  

 “We’ll miss you, Frankie!” someone called out as one of the sport’s modern greats returned to the winner’s unsaddling corner with his arms aloft.

The crowd cheered wholeheartedly when he leapt from the saddle in trademark style, and an excitable paddock-side group of buxom Yorkshire lasses yelled lustily, “Frankie! You come here, Frankie…”

Frankie Dettori unleashed his trademark celebration at York. (Photo by Mike Egerton/Getty Images)

“It’s my last Ebor (Festival). My wife came along, I’m the first one to get six International winners, brilliant, I couldn’t ask for more,” he said, acknowledging that he now has more wins in the race than any other jockey.”

Dettori’s sextet also features stars of such high calibre as Halling, Singspiel, Sakhee, Sulamani, and Authorized, each a testament to the race’s strength year on year.

But when Equinox gave him a caning at Meydan in March, it would have taken some stretch of imagination to think Mostahdaf would rise to not only join those horses but also become the best 10-furlong runner in Europe, all within five months.

Another five months from now and Dettori should be enjoying his retirement. But after his latest masterclass, the 52-year-old’s fans around the Knavesmire and beyond must be wondering why.




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