Flying Officer scores for Dettori
It took five years, but John Gosden trained his first QIPCO British Champions Day winner when Flying Officer landed the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup. The winner is owned and was bred by American George Strawbridge and was ridden by Frankie Dettori. Five-year-old Flying Officer is a full-brother to Ladbrokes St Leger winner Lucarno.
Strawbridge, a keen fan of jump racing, said: “It’s a thrill to be here and a thrill to win – the only thing they are not doing is going over jumps, but this race is the closest thing to it. He [Flying Officer] is 18 hands and all of his brothers have been that size too.
“I love the atmosphere here, the sportsmanship and that everyone is competing on a level playing field. Horses are competing on their own merits.”
Of his first winner at the meeting, Gosden said: “We’ve been paced a lot here, but my old friend Henry [Cecil] kept winning everything – there wasn’t room for the rest of us.”
Flying Officer showed his quirky side when initially being reluctant to enter the winner’s enclosure, and Gosden said: “He’s very suspicious of everything, and we did say to him before the race that if he didn’t win he would be sent to the cavalry and would be leaving here ridden by one of the hussars [who are on duty at today’s meeting]. He’s nervous of having armour put on.
“Mr Strawbridge supplemented this horse and Journey [who runs in the Fillies’ & Mares’] and was very bold to do so. When the races closed neither horse was in form and one was resting in his box, but he did that and he flew in at 10 o’clock last night and he’s on the 5 o’clock flight [this evening] to Toronto to see a filly run at Woodbine tomorrow. He’s been very game – and if Journey runs half as well as this horse we’ll be happy.
“Flying Officer will finish for this season now and be trained for Cup races next year.”
Dettori had the lightly-raced five-year-old handily placed behind the leading bunch until taking closer order with a move forward along the rail around five furlongs out. He headed for home early in the straight and had a clear run to the line as others behind him found traffic problems.
A delighted Frankie Dettori said after the victory: “I had to be brave and I managed to get a split going to the straight. This is a good horse, only lightly-raced and he’s on the way up.
“This race looked wide open, I was lucky I had a good draw I got all the gaps and he won well. When I asked him to quicken he quickened, I felt they were coming but I managed to nick the lane on the top of the straight and he stayed on to the line.
“It sounded messy in behind, obviously I didn’t see it but I could hear it. The horses that I fancied were Atzeni’s (Pallasator) and Forgotten Rules and I had one in front and one on my side and when we got to the five I had to take that gap on the inside and he went forward.
“I see could see Jimmy Fortune (Agent Murphy) coming back to the field and I could hear a lot of shouting out the back, but I was gone and it was up to them to come and catch me. I think ground is the key to this horse, he wouldn’t want it too firm. You have got to think that he has got a bit of improvement and he is on an upward curve.”
Clever Cookie finished a length behind the winner Flying Officer in the hands of Graham Lee.
Peter Niven, trainer of the Primo Valentino seven-year-old, who started his career over hurdles, said: “Obviously I’m biased, but I thought we were exceptionally unlucky. Graham has tried everything he could; we were in a lovely position but then he had to switch wide and the winner just got a run on us. My horse has made up four lengths in the last furlong and a half.
“I thought he was cherry ripe, I thought he would win today; we got beat but I still think we’ve got a fair horse on our hands.
“His King George run here was exceptional, knowing what I know about the horse – he wasn’t quite right and my horses weren’t right – then the Lonsdale Cup at York was a bit of a blip, but this was a great run and it’s just a shame he hasn’t won to let everyone know just how good he is.”
When asked about future plans for Clever Cookie, Niven said: “I don’t know. There’s so much money to be won on the Flat scene that I would tempted to avoid risking him [over hurdles] and keep him at this now.
“He’s a very easy horse to train; I ride him out every day myself. I think there’s a big one in him and we all get a great thrill from him.”
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