Frankie Dettori has been enjoying a big-race winning spree this month and Saturday’s (20 May) Group 1 Lockinge Stakes (1600m) at Newbury may provide the celebrity jockey with yet more glory in the year that he will quit the saddle.
Laurel, fast-improving winner of three of four starts, is the mount of 52-year-old Dettori over Newbury’s straight mile and if the four-year-old daughter of Kingman – the only filly in the field – outruns her 12 rivals, Dettori will enlarge on a formidable record in May.
Since partnering Chaldean to G1 2000 Guineas (1600m) glory at Newmarket on 6 May he has ridden in six English Group races, winning a G2 and two G3s – and all for Laurel’s joint trainers John and Thady Gosden.
Only failing by three-quarters of a length in last October’s G1 Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket – also over a straight 1600m – Laurel prepared for more ambitious targets when demolishing her rivals in the Listed Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes (1600m) at Kempton last month.
Saturday will be the first time that Dettori rides Laurel in competitive action, but satisfaction was expressed all round after he partnered the four-year-old bay up Newmarket’s Al Bahathri gallop on Wednesday (17 May).
Thady Gosden said afterwards: “Laurel is learning all the time and is well worth another try in Group 1 competition even if this is a big step up.”
Gosden is no doubt referring to elevation from her all-weather Kempton win to this Newbury turf Group 1 and the fact that she will also encounter colts – and very good ones – for the first time. Colts that include Modern Games (William Buick), who basks in the rare accolade of being unbeaten in two Breeders’ Cup races, triumphant in both the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (1600m) at Del Mar in 2021 and last November’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.
Altogether a four-times Group 1 winner, this ultra-consistent son of Dubawi saw his reputation dented when he returned to Keeneland last month, failing to cope with the more forwardly-ridden Chez Pierre in the G1 Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes (1600m).
Not a disaster though according to his Newmarket-based trainer Charlie Appleby, even less so as Maker’s Mile third Up To The Mark has easily won a Churchill Downs Group 1 this month.
Appleby says: “Modern Games was favourite at Keeneland and of course we were disappointed, but he made up a lot of ground in the straight. By then the winner had flown but he ran a gallant race. I’m confident that Modern Games is still the same horse that we had last year.”
The four-year-old son of Dubawi may also start favourite for the Lockinge – a race that has fallen to the market leader in four of the last five years – but plenty of other high-quality, group-race winning threats in Saturday’s feature include My Prospero (Tom Marquand), Mutasaabeq (Jim Crowley), Jadoomi (James Doyle) and Light Infantry (Jamie Spencer).
The other World Pool/simulcast event at Newbury is the London Gold Cup (2000m) in which William Haggas-trained, Tom Marquand-ridden Desert Hero is likely to be popular after stylishly winning two of his three starts last season. His pedigree strongly suggests that the rise to this trip could be a big help on the 2023 seasonal return of this colt who runs in the colours of the recently crowned King and Queen.