Class tells in the end as Cracksman edges out outsider Salouen in thriller
We came expecting a procession, but what we got was a proper horse race – arguably as good as any we've seen all year.
Cracksman, switched to run here after stablemate Enable met with a setback and a 2-7 chance against five inferior rivals on ratings, already looked as if he might be in a spot of bother when Frankie Dettori started to niggle him along rounding Tattenham Corner.
By the two-furlong marker he looked in big trouble, not even sure to finish second.
At this point Silvestre de Sousa looked set to serve up as big a shock as he had when Arabian Queen beat Golden Horn in the 2015 Juddmonte International, so strongly was 33-1 chance Salouen still going in the lead, with German challenger Windstoss just plugging away back in third.
It was only in the shadows of the post that class told and Europe's highest-rated horse surged to the front, to the huge relief of John Gosden, Frankie Dettori and Anthony Oppenheimer.
"He's not the horse we know, but he's had the guts to get up and win," said trainer Gosden, who had no trouble explaining why Cracksman made such hard work of it.
"It's very hard to accelerate and catch one on this ground, but particularly when you aren't enjoying running down the hill. Frankie said he's very uncomfortable running down the hill and there's rather a lot of it here.
"I'm pleased he showed a lot of courage to get the job done, as that's always the test of a good horse. I was looking forward to the last 50 yards as I knew he'd put a kick in.
"It was very nearly stolen by Silvestre with a very clever ride, but I liked the way he finished. He didn't really take off until he met the rising ground and then he just flew. It was a great ride from Silvestre, and not a panicky ride from Frankie."
Whereas this was a first Coronation Cup for the trainer, Dettori had already won the race four times, including on Daylami and Singspiel.
However, he had no hesitation in declaring that Cracksman is "up with the best of them", even though this was not the four-year-old's finest hour.
Dettori's nap hand in the Coronation Cup
Year | Horse | Trainer | SP
2018 Cracksman John Gosden 2-7f
2001 Mutafaweq Saeed Bin Suroor 11-2
1999 Daylami Saeed Bin Suroor 9-2
1997 Singspiel Sir Michael Stoute 5-4f
1996 Swain Andre Fabre 11-10f
Dettori said: "We got the job done but it was by the skin of our teeth. Ascot is a track more suitable for him.
"He hates running downhill and when he had to pick up the bridle and bridge the gap he couldn't. They got away from me and I had plenty of lengths to make up.
"I wasn't making any progress until I switched him to the rail and gave him something to channel his thinking. It was only on the flattest part of the track that his class pulled him through, but between the five [pole] and the one we were all at sea."
Ascot the target
The Prince of Wales's remains the target and bookmakers who pushed him out to as big as 3-1 were soon forced to rethink radically – cutting him back to a best-priced 6-4.
Gosden confirmed: "We'll point towards Ascot. It's 19 days and he loves it there because, when he gets to Swinley Bottom, he meets that rising ground which he adores.
"That will be the plan, but we'll have to freshen him up first as he had a proper race today. It was a bit of a doddle in France."
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