Dettori serves up the magic as Al Wukair strikes late at Deauville
A trip to Ascot for Champions Day beckons for Al Wukair, who made good on the abundant promise of his first three starts in delivering a record-equalling seventh Jacques le Marois for trainer Andre Fabre, while Frankie Dettori was able to snatch a Group 1 for his bosses at Al Shaqab – a victory that looked anything but likely a furlong out.
"He was playing around a bit, just looking up and not concentrating so I had to get a bit serious," said Dettori, who looked in danger of becoming the meat in the sandwich between pacesetting Thunder Snow, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, and fast-finishing Inns Of Court, under Mickael Barzalona.
"When Mickael came he knew it was time to go. He got a crack across the face with the whip from Christophe and I think that woke him up."
Though the Normandy sun had undoubtedly dried conditions out a little from the morning description of soft, Fabre had said in advance that easier ground would be a help to Al Wukair, an opinion shared by Dettori.
"The rain helped because I rode him on firm at Maisons-Laffitte and he didn’t really like that," said Dettori, who had been in action at Arlington Park in Chicago only the day before.
"I guess the long-term plan could be the QEII, where he's guaranteed to get his ground, and he likes to go straight. But a mile and a quarter is within his compass and I'm sure at some stage Andre will think about stepping him up."
Al Wukair was a rare recommendation from his trainer to Al Shaqab at the sales, and Fabre had no hesitation in aiming at Newmarket, where the colt arguably did not get the rub of the green in finishing third behind Churchill in the 2,000 Guineas.
A minor injury then prevented him from contesting the Prix du Jockey Club, and it would appear plans to step up in trip will remain on hold for now.
'I think the QEII will be next'
"He had a setback and twisted an ankle, but I've always believed in him," said Fabre, who joins Francois Boutin in having trained a record seven winners of the Marois.
"I think the QEII at Ascot will be next for him. We've the option to go a bit further, but let's see what the owner says. He's in the Champion Stakes too, but I think the Irish Champion Stakes could comes a bit soon."
Al Wukair's price now ranges from 8-1 to 25-1 for the Champion Stakes, while he is no bigger than 10-1 for the QEII.
Fabre said he was "delighted" with Inns Of Court, whose previous try at a mile ended with a slipped saddle in the Poule d'Essai but who settled beautifully for Barzalona.
Benoist has become an integral part of the Al Shaqab set-up in France and Fabre made a rare detour in his post-race comments to praise the rider.
The Belgium-born jockey is likely to be back on board for Ascot, and was generous in his praise for Dettori.
"I've always loved this horse and I was a little disappointed to be only third in the Guineas," said Benoist. "He's growing up and beginning to understand what racing is about.
"I hope to be back soon and this is a great win for the team and a reward for Frankie because we really work as a team between the two countries."