LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – Frankie Dettori said he required an espresso or two to pump himself up because of the flat atmosphere with no spectators allowed at Royal Ascot due to the coronvavirus pandemic.
The 49-year-old Italian riding legend managed to get off the mark on the first day on Tuesday with Frankly Darling in the Ribblesdale Stakes, giving his friend John Gosden his 50th winner at the meeting.
Dettori — who took his own tally to 68 — said he had found it very hard to get enthused without the usual buzz of thronging crowds trying to get close to the biggest drawcard in the sport.
“Before the first race, it was very hard to pick myself up,” he said after riding Frankly Darling.
“I usually walk in and am signing autographs, everybody is slapping me on the back and shouting my name. It was the opposite today.
“I think I had to have two or three espressos to get me going for the first race.
“But now the adrenaline is pumping.”
The adrenaline was clearly flowing as Dettori performed his trademark flying dismount.
“Of course we miss the crowd, but we are putting on a show for the people watching at home who are enjoying the races,” he said.
“It was very hard to get going for the first race and a lot of the lads were quiet.
“I wasn’t going to do a flying dismount, but ITV (the broadcaster) asked me to do it and it’s not the same without me doing a flying dismount.
“There’s no crowd, but it’s still Royal Ascot and I thought I should still celebrate in style.”
Gosden — who received a saddle cloth with 50 marked on it from Dettori at the presentation — said Ascot could be an unforgiving environment.
“I can remember during this week scrambling one winner, one year having no winners, having six seconds and finally a winner one year,” he said.
“Look, it is not an easy place to win races.”
PEOPLE LOSING JOBS
Gosden — who was to have winner number 51 with Nazeef in the penultimate race the Duke of Cambridge Stakes — said it was important the iconic meeting took place even without spectators.
“It is Royal Ascot,” he said. “I think it is a huge achievement.
“This country and many countries in the world have suffered horribly from this sinister disease — it has been devastating.
“Everything that people are going through, let alone the destruction of our economies and people losing jobs — it is a worldwide problem.
“It (Ascot) is a very safe place to be and it’s lovely to put on top-quality sport with the best racehorses in Europe, great athletes and great jockeys.
“We understand that it is a financial blow for the racecourses, but we are putting a show on and it’s great that it’s going out.”
Dettori paid a handsome tribute to 69-year-old Gosden, who has on two occasions handed him a lifeline when his career has been at a crossroads.
“John is amazing,” said Dettori.
“We have a lot of horses running this week. Stradivarius is going for a third Gold Cup.
“We have got amazing owners and it is a pleasure to ride for him. He gives me a tremendous amount of confidence.
“He is a good boss and a good friend.”