Courage Mon Ami hands Dettori ninth Gold Cup triumph
Frankie Dettori sparked incredible scenes at Royal Ascot as he celebrated a ninth Gold Cup win on his final ride in the race with unexposed four-year-old Courage Mon Ami (15/2).
The John & Thady Gosden-trained winner defied convention by winning the blue-riband contest on just his fourth career start, having not even contested a Group race until today.
However, the unbeaten son of Frankel took the sharp rise in class in his stride by coming from well off the pace under Dettori to collar Coltrane and score by three-quarters of a length.
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.
The 11/4 favourite Coltrane posted a career-best in second, three and three-quarter lengths in front of long-time leader and 2021 victor Subjectivist, who battled on bravely after being headed early in the straight.
Dettori said: “I didn’t expect it. 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. I rode him cold and it just happened – I got the splits when I wanted to and he showed a turn of foot. The last half a furlong, I couldn’t give in to Oisin, I thought: ‘no, we’ve got this far, please keep going’.
“It’s unbelievable, on my last year winning the Gold Cup. Myself, The King and Queen Camilla had a talk beforehand about his win and my relationship with his mother, Queen Elizabeth, then the next race I go on and win the Gold Cup and he presents the trophy. It’s amazing, really amazing.
“I wanted to ride Courage Mon Ami to run well, because I really don’t know the horse and I didn’t know his capability or if he was able to stay. I knew there would be pace, I wanted to swing out wide but Stéphane [Pasquier] kept me in and actually won me the race, because I thought: ‘I’ll cut the corner and see what happens’. Then it happened!
“Nine Gold Cups, what can you say? Amazing. I’m speechless because I didn’t expect it, to be honest with you.”
On receiving the Gold Cup from The King, he said: “It’s my last year, so this is the only chance I had. It’s pretty emotional. The King is a lovely man and Camilla is lovely. It is an honour to be able to ride for them in other races and to win the Gold Cup and be presented with the trophy by them.”
He added: “I didn’t believe it, to go from a handicap to a Gold Cup. But John Gosden is a great trainer and he does things like that, sometimes if I don’t believe it, I’ll just go along with it!”
On taking his children up onto the podium with him, he said: “I said ‘listen, we won the Gold Cup, we can go up there and shake hands with The King’, so it’s a great thrill for them. Now they are old enough to understand. For the last 18 years, they’ve just thought I was a guy on the TV, maybe like Peppa Pig or something! So they really know what I’m doing.”
John Gosden said: “You can’t practise two and a half miles at home, but Frankie stayed cool and rode him cool in the dark down the inside, saving every inch. I saw he went to go outside turning into the straight and they said no, go back in, and luckily he managed to wriggle through and found a great run.
“Courage Mon Ami is a lovely horse who was bred by Mr [Anthony] Oppenheimer, who sold him. It costs a great deal of money for English breeders to keep their studs going. He’s a gelding by Frankel, he’s unbeaten, but he’s gone from the all-weather to Goodwood to here, so full achievement to the horse.”
Asked to reflect upon the fact that it was Courage Mon Ami’s fourth start, Gosden said: “I don’t think I’ll try it again. Richard Brown [bloodstock agent] has done a very clever job – he was asked to find horses to come to Royal Ascot [for the owners Wathnan Racing]. They are hard to buy but both horses he found, Gregory and Courage Mon Ami, were owner/breeder horses. The costs of keeping a stud going means owners have to sell, but Mr Oppenheimer is here and, of course, Mrs [Philippa] Cooper of Normandie Stud [who bred Gregory]. It’s tough to run a stud and pay the stallion nominations and the whole deal, so they have to sell. They keep the fillies and sell the colts.
“A great ride for Frankie. It crowns his week – he’s only good in long-distance races now! He’s had a phenomenal career. Thirty years we’ve been working together on and off. We’ve had one argument in 30 years. How many marriages can say that? We patched that up after five days and were winning Group Ones in Deauville straight after that – we had a disagreement, that’s fine, that’s professional, and we kicked on after that. Look at the result today.”
He added: “Our office racing manager Peter Shoemark put Courage Mon Ami in the race. You don’t know if they are going to stay two and a half miles. He looked quite mature at home but, look, he hasn’t been easy to train. He didn’t run at two, ran as a back-end three-year-old on the all-weather, and Mr Oppenheimer was very patient. He has the stud to run, which is very expensive, hence this horse is a gelding and he sold him. The form is solid with Coltrane, Subjectivist, and Emily Dickinson. It was a superb performance.”
Thady Gosden said: “Courage Mon Ami has always been a talented horse and he’s very lightly raced; it’s not very often you win the Gold Cup on your fourth start. He has improved with every run.
“It was a gutsy performance today, stepping up from handicap to Group One company, even though he was rated 106 before, is a pretty serious ask. He had a brilliant ride from Frankie – he looked as though he might be a touch unlucky for half a furlong there – but fortunately he got out of jail, and it was a very brave performance.
“He’s always looked smart, but as you can tell by the size of him, he’s taken plenty of time to mature. You’d like to think he’s still maturing now and can still improve.”
Coltrane’s rider Oisin Murphy said: “He relaxed great and travelled round super. I felt I could go and win the race. Frankie’s come with me and it was a good battle, and Frankie came out on top.”
Charlie Johnston said of Subjectivist: “He’s run a great race. I was sort of expecting he would win or we would be out with the washing! It’s been a long road and just being here is pretty special. Let’s hope he’s OK and we can go again.”
4.20pm Gold Cup (Group 1) (British Champions Series)
1 Courage Mon Ami (Wathnan Racing) John & Thady Gosden 4-9-03 Frankie Dettori 15/2
2 Coltrane (Mick & Janice Mariscotti) Andrew Balding 6-9-04 Oisin Murphy 11/4F
3 Subjectivist (Dr Jim Walker) Charlie Johnston 6-9-04 Joe Fanning 9/2
John & Thady Gosden – 63rd Royal Ascot winner, including partnerships
Frankie Dettori – 79th Royal Ascot winner
*John Gosden trained 55 Royal Ascot winners in his own name
Sectional times: https://royalascot2023.racenewslive.co.uk/sectional-times/