‘It’s mental’: Frankie Dettori bags final Oaks victory at Epsom in his last year in the saddle

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  • Frankie Dettori made his final ride in the Epsom Oaks a winning one when riding the John and Thady Gosden-trained Soul Sister to a comfortable victory. This is Frankie’s final year in the saddle, making this Group One Betfred Oaks victory a particularly poignant one.

    Frankie said to ITV after achieving his seventh victory in this prestigious race: “That means a lot – seven Oaks winners. Lady Bamford is a big supporter of mine and in my last year that is my second Classic winner – unbelievable.” The 52-year-old jockey also won the first Classic of the season, the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, on Chaldean.

    Frankie enjoyed further Group One success earlier in the day when piloting Emily Upjohn to victory in the Coronation Cup, also for John and Thady Gosden.

    “I have ridden two great fillies this afternoon – Emily Upjohn and this one. I just want to soak it in now!” said Frankie. “It was a bit messy at the beginning and I didn’t want to go too wide. William [Buick] stopped quickly and I had to go wide, but I kept her balanced and she did the rest.”

    Frankie’s previous Oaks winners are Balanchine (1994), Moonshell (1995), Kazzia (2002), Enable (2017), Anapurna (2019) and Snowfall (2021). He has now ridden 23 English Classic winners.

    Of how the race panned out, Frankie said: “I followed Buick and he dived very quickly around Tattenham Corner and so I had to take evasive actions and swing right. We got organised and sat quiet between the three and the one and a half furlong poles and then I was just hoping that if I pressed the button she would go – and she did go. She’s shown so much class.

    “If I stayed on one more year, I may get close to Lester [Piggott]’s 30 [Classic wins]. I’m joking! It’s incredible and I’ve had some fantastic rides. Emily and Soul Sister mean it’s two in the bag and we’ve one to go with Arrest tomorrow.

    “It is mental, I’ll be honest with you. I thought I had three good rides in the three Group One races, but to have two in the bag already with the Derby to go is crazy. I’m stuck for words!”

    Soul Sister is owned and was bred by Lady Bamford, who is a long-term supporter of racing. She led her mare in to the winner’s enclosure and was unsurprisingly delighted with the victory having previously enjoyed Oaks success with Sariska in 2009.

    This was an fourth Oaks victory for John Gosden, who now trains alongside his son Thady.

    “I could see she was coming strongly, but I didn’t know if she’d stay the mile and a half, but she did, and she stayed it well, which she needed,” said John. “This last half furlong up the hill will find them out, but she stuck her neck out and she’s a classy filly.

    “Her family are milers, but looking at her pedigree I saw Darshaan under the third dam, so I thought there was a chance she’d stay. I didn’t know until the two marker what was going to happen, but it was a strongly run race and she’s beaten two nice fillies, seeing it out well.”

    Of plans for the future with Soul Sister, John explained: “I think she’s versatile enough to go a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half. It’s great for her to win a Classic for the owners, who bred her at their own farm, and let me tell you, that’s not an easy game. It’s hard enough to get a mare in foal, let alone breed a horse like that.”

    Soul Sister went off at odds of 11/4, while short-priced favourite Savethelastdance (5/6) finished one-and-three-quarter lengths down in second under Ryan Moore for trainer Aidan O’Brien in the Epsom Oaks. 40/1 shot Caernarfon finished a creditable third, just a head behind Savethelastdance, under Connor Beasley for trainer Jack Channon.

    Aidan O’Brien said of Savethelastdance’s performance: “She has run well, but she obviously handles soft ground and stays very well. We were very happy with her really. She has a lot of options and we can do whatever. She is a big honest filly that stays very well and handles soft ground when it comes. She handles good ground, but soft ground doesn’t bother her.”

    Jack Channon said of his Epsom Oaks result: “At the top of the hill she was travelling so well, but you could see that Frankie was travelling just as well. We picked up just as well as her [Soul Sister] up until about the furlong pole, and she probably hasn’t quite got up the hill.

    “She’s a very good filly, we’re blessed to have her in the yard, and it’s just a massive thank you to everyone in the yard who has done such a great job.”

    2023 Epsom Oaks result: Soul Sister’s breeding

    Soul Sister is bred in the purple; by the unbeaten Frankel, out of a Dansili mare named Dream Peace. Frankel needs little introduction – he clocked almost £3m in prize money during his unbeaten run of 14 races. His victories included the Royal Lodge Stakes, the Dewhurst Stakes, the Greenham Stakes, the 2,000 Guineas, the St James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes in both 2011 and 2012, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, the Lockinge Stakes, the Queen Anne Stakes, the International Stakes and the Champion Stakes.

    Dream Peace has proved herself to be a very useful broodmare with a handful of successful progeny, including Soul Sister. Dream Peace clocked over £500,000 in prize money while racing in the USA, winning four of her 18 races, finishing second in three others and third on eight other occasions.

    Read the full report from the Derby meeting in the 8 June issue of Horse & Hound magazine.

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