Dettori winner one: A’Ali impresses in narrow Norfolk triumph

Thu 20 Jun 2019

Frankie Dettori steered A’Ali to a narrow victory in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Despite having to make do with the runner-up spot on his racecourse debut at Ripon a fortnight ago, plenty was expected of Simon Crisford’s juvenile in this five-furlong Group Two as he was towards the head of the market at 5-1.

The well-backed 13-8 favourite Sunday Sovereign moved smoothly to the front racing inside the final two furlongs, but his effort petered out once push came to shove and A’Ali quickly powered into a clear advantage.

 A'Ali and Dettori strike in the Queen Mary (PA)
A'Ali and Dettori strike in the Queen Mary (PA)

After meeting traffic problems, Ventura Rebel was really finding his stride late in the day, but was a neck down at the line.

Dubai Station was best of the rest in third, with Sunday Sovereign ultimately disappointing in eighth.

A delighted Newmarket-based Crisford, Godolphin's former racing manager, was successful with Ostilio at last year's Royal Meeting and he was thrilled to return to the winner's enclosure at the Berkshire venue.

He said: "I used to think having winners at Royal Ascot was like picking apples off a tree! However, since I've started training on my own it hasn't been quite as simple as that, but it means everything.

"Frankie is obviously the go-to jockey when you really need somebody - he was available and he gave A'Ali a super ride.

"When I saw them cantering to the start, I thought A'Ali was very fresh. He put up huge speed figures when he ran at Ripon and the bounce factor was in my mind. I was worried that he had put in such a big effort there that it would count against him.

"A'Ali travelled well enough, picked up nicely and has a good turn of foot. We've always known he was a very good horse and that is why we ran him in a Group Two despite being beaten on his first start.

"A'Ali is a top-notch horse. All the guys who do figures and analyse races using sectional times were screaming about this horse from the rooftop.

"I wouldn't have run him today, unless he galloped out well after the winning line at Ripon. He galloped out super strong there and then I knew the right target was this Group Two and not a novice event at Wolverhampton.

"It is great to be in the winner's enclosure at Royal Ascot and I am surrounded by some really strong supporters of mine over the years including Sheikh Mohammed. His great friend Shaikh Duaij owns this horse and is from the Royal Family of Bahrain. They have all been so supportive and it counts for a lot.

"Shaikh Duaij is steeped in racing history. His uncle used to own horses like Jellaby in the 1970s. He has always been a huge enthusiast and this is his first runner at the Royal Meeting, which is brilliant. This horse can now sit in that tidy packet of horses which Shaikh Duaij's uncle used to have - he is a good colt.

"I think A'Ali will get six furlongs. He is out of a Motivator mare [Motion Lass] so we could look at stepping him up in trip. The doors are open for everything with him. He will be campaigned as a two-year-old. He's small, he's neat, he's tidy and he'll have a proper two-year-old campaign."

Dettori said: "I spent half of my 30 years in racing with Simon [when Crisford was racing manager to Godolphin and Dettori first jockey] - we've both gone our own ways and he's now training. This brings back some great memories and I'm really delighted. We're all family.

"I had an unbelievable ride and the horse travelled like a winner all the way. He pulled out and quickened, and it certainly made my life easy.

"A'Ali was travelling so good. He did everything so professionally, though he did idle a bit in front.

"I suspect Simon will back him up in the five-furlong race at Goodwood [Molecomb Stakes], as he has so much speed.

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