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Royal Ascot Review
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Royal Ascot review: Frankie's farewell sealed with a kiss

Royal Ascot rarely disappoints and this week was no different as the irrepressible Frankie Dettori lit up the famous Berkshire meeting one final time before he retires at the end of the year. 

Dettori took a while to get going, but once in full cry he was tough to stop, with his Gold Cup success on Thursday capping a magnificent afternoon that also gave witness to the first Royal winner at the meeting for King Charles as Desert Hero raised the roof.

Royal Ascot was full of stunning moments, with plenty of favourites landing for punters and also the seismic shock of a record-equalling 150/1 winner! 

Here's our look back on five glorious days at Britain's pre-eminent Flat meeting.

Courage Mon Ami delivers perfect Frankie story

With three seconds and a nine-day ban for careless riding picked up on day one, it's fair to say Royal Ascot didn't begin the way Frankie Dettori imagined, but it wasn't long before he rectified that.

He got his first win on the board late on day two and, from there, he excelled himself as he rode four winners at his final Royal Ascot to take his career tally at the meeting to a stunning 81.

The most important of those was obviously Courage Mon Ami, the remarkable four-year-old who made it four wins in his short career by downing the Gold Cup field under an inspired Frankie ride.

Dettori, whose first Gold Cup success came aboard Drum Taps in 1992, has now steered home the winner of the Gold Cup four times in the last six years, following three successive wins on Stradivarius, and his tally in the Blue Riband stands at nine. 

"The last five years I've had Stradivarius, so the pressure was on. This one I thought was a bit of a chancer coming from handicaps, but John was confident," he said. 

"Nine Gold Cups, what can you say? Amazing. I'm speechless because I didn't expect it to be honest with you."

Dettori, on the final day of his last appearance at Royal Ascot, reflected on the joy the place has given him.

"I was a little bit sad, but I've a really good run at it," he said. "When I walked into the weighing room today, I felt like I was 16 again. This place has been lucky for me.

"Maybe it was a good thing I didn't win my last race as I might not have handled the razzmatazz."

Old firm stand strong once more

For the 10th time in the last 14 years, Ryan Moore finished Royal Ascot as the meeting's leading rider with six victories across the five days as he ensured the fairytale farewell for Frankie didn't quite have the storybook ending.

Moore, who landed the title last year for the first time since 2018, had entered the day one winner ahead of Frankie Dettori in the standings having guided Paddington, River Tiber, Warm Heart, Vauban and Okita Sushi to victory.

With Dettori unable to find a winner on his final day riding at Royal Ascot, Moore was able to take the title.

Victory in the finale on Dawn Rising gave him a sixth win via that Queen Alexandra Stakes success, and ensured Moore moved to within two winners of Dettori's Royal Ascot haul of 81 winners during his career.

With the Italian set to retire this year, Moore will be by far and away the most prolific jockey riding at next year's Royal meeting, with his 79 winners putting him 45 victories clear of William Buick in third.

Hollie Doyle (three) joined her husband Tom Marquand and Rossa Ryan with two apiece as the other riders to enjoy multiple successes.

The leading trainer award was secured by Aidan O'Brien for the 12th time, with the surprise success of Age Of Kings in the Jersey Stakes proving the crucial victory. 

O'Brien ended the week tied on four winners with John and Thady Gosden, but was able to lift the prize once again due to having six seconds compared to the Gosdens' one.

Big price winners cause Royal shocks

Amongst the popular and well-backed winners across the week, there were also some mammoth shocks with a joint-record 150/1 winner and a Group 1 stunner at 80/1.

In winning the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at a whopping 150/1, Valiant Force matched the biggest starting price (SP) returned at the Royal meeting and the biggest-price returned in a British or Irish Group race as he scored for Rossa Ryan and trainer Adrian Murray.

There was more to come on Saturday as Khaadem got up late in the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Stakes under a vintage Jamie Spencer ride as they arrived on the scene to deny Marquand and Sacred.

Spencer has notched top-level wins in Ireland, France, Germany, the US and Australia, but it was clear to see how much a first British victory at the highest level since Fame And Glory won the Gold Cup in 2011 meant to him.

Royal winner caps the meeting

Gold Cup day was spectacular as Dettori won the big prize, but it was also notable as Desert Hero delivered King Charles his first winner at Royal Ascot with victory in the King George V Stakes. 

Desert Hero was ridden by Tom Marquand and finished strongly to beat Valiant King and Bertinelli to give the new monarch a win at his first Royal Ascot. 

Marquand said it was "one of his proudest moments in the saddle" while an hour later there was the thrill of seeing Dettori land his final Gold Cup before he collected the famous trophy from King Charles and Queen Camilla, and even planted a kiss on the Queen's cheek.

As it so often has been over three decades and more, Royal Ascot 2023 was the domain of Dettori – this time for the final fling.

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