FRANKIE DETTORI admits to pre-race nerves ahead of Saturday’s star-studded QIPCO Champion Stakes.
The charismatic jockey has won virtually every big prize in British racing but the Ascot Group 1 has eluded him.
He looks to have a fine chance of finally slotting in one of the missing pieces of his jigsaw on Cracksman in the £1.3million contest.
After hitting the frame in the Derby and the Irish version he bolted up in the Great Voltigeur at York.
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Another impressive display came in the Prix Niel at Chantilly but he swerved the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in favour of Saturday’s big race.
Dettori revealed: “I’ve never won the Champion Stakes so I’m quite nervous about it.
“Cracksman has improved all year. We thought Enable was probably more streetwise than him for the Arc and this seems a good opportunity for him to finish off the year.
“He seems to be getting stronger and, with rain forecast, it will be a stiff mile and a quarter. I can’t see any problems with the drop in trip.
GORDON ELLIOTT smacked in six of the best at Punchestown on Thursday.
Pallasator set the ball rolling under Gold Cup winning-jockey Norman Williamson in the John Shortt Legends charity race for ex-jockeys.
Unbeaten bumper ace Samcro easily struck on his hurdles debut and Death Duty made it two-out-of-two over fences.
Ben Dundee, King’s Song and Felix Desjy completed the six but it was Noel Meade’s Road To Respect who triumphed in the big race of the day.
The 7-2 shot – winner of the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Plate at last season’s Cheltenham Festival – swooped on the run-in to collar front-running outsider Kilcarry Bridge.
Jockey Sean Flanagan said: “I won cosily enough in the end. He was just very rusty. He’s probably improved a bit from last year – he’s so much bigger and stronger.
“I wouldn’t have any reason not to train him for the Gold Cup.”
Last season’s Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco – sent off 7-4 favourite yesterday – made a satisfactory return to action in fourth.
“I rode him this morning and he’s in great nick. John Gosden has done a brilliant programme for him this year bearing in mind we’ve got next year to look forward to as well.
“We’re going there with lots of confidence.”
Cracksman’s task was made easier when Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International winner Ulysses was surprisingly left out of the final decs for the Champion Stakes.
If Dettori grabs the glory on Cracksman it will only leave the July Cup and Dewhurst Stakes missing from his big-race CV in Britain.
He’s won the QEII Stakes five times – including on Mark Of Esteem 21 years ago when he memorably went through the card with his magnificent seven.
On Saturday he teams up with smart filly Persuasive. She has yet to win this season but she ran well when runner-up behind Roly Poly in Newmarket’s Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket two weeks ago.
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Dettori added: “She likes the rain but it’s a tough race, obviously, against Ribchester, Churchill, Al Wukair and the rest.
“She’s a very honest filly and the rain would help. if she can get in the first three that would be a massive run. We’ve run out of fillies’ races and now have to take on the boys.”