THREE-TIME Champion Jockey Frankie Dettori thanked Qatari racing supremo Sheikh Joaan Al Thani after becoming only the fourth man to ride 50 winners at Royal Ascot.
Dettori piloted Richard Hannon-trained 13-2 shot Osaila to victory by a nose in the Sandringham Handicap to join a select group that includes Lester Piggot, Pat Eddery and Willie Carson.
It was particularly sweet for the evergreen 44-year-old, as the photo finish went against 2-1 favourite Always Smile, who is owned by his former employers Godolphin.
Dettori’s 2012 split from the Dubai racing powerhouse after 18 years marked a low point but he has thrived this year, also winning the Investec Derby at Epsom this month.
“It’s special. Sheikh Joaan saved my career and I owe him a lot,” he said. “I thought it was never going to come so it’s great, especially for my boss as he’s here. Fifty is a big number. This was one of my best rides this week and it came off.”
Dettori’s feats at the fabled racetrack include winning all seven races on one day in September 1996 and being the leading jockey at Royal Ascot on five occasions.
“Ascot’s my place and I love it,” he added. “I was getting a bit worried towards the end of the day as I thought I had some good rides. I got a great reception from the crowd and have some fantastic memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life.”
Earlier yesterday the Dermot Weld-trained Free Eagle snatched the Prince of Wales’s Stakes from a fast-finishing The Grey Gatsby by a short head.
The 5-2 favourite, ridden by Pat Smullen, hit the front when pacesetter Gailo Chop wilted and just held on as Jamie Spencer guided last year’s French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes winner to a close second. Weld revealed his four-year-old had been struggling for fitness following a bout of illness and could now aim him at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.
Jockey Ryan Moore took his winning tally for the week to five by roaring to victory aboard Acapulco in the Queen Mary Stakes and then claiming the Royal Hunt Cup by a neck on 8-1 chance GM Hopkins.