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Vintage Frankie Dettori ride sees Falcon Eight swoop late in Chester Cup

Frankie Dettori wins the Chester Cup in front of empty stands on Falcon Eight on Friday
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Dermot Weld may have hatched this particular plot six months ago but by the time Falcon Eight and Frankie Dettori reached the three-furlong marker, the jockey revealed Plans A and B had been thrown out the window in favour of Plan C.

Returning from a 314-day absence and saddled with a weight that had not been carried to victory in Chester's marquee event since 2001, Falcon Eight was slow out of the gates and unhelpfully stationed to the rear of the field for much of the contest.

His prospects did not appear promising, but in the 30 years since he last conquered the Chester Cup on Star Player in 1991, Dettori has made a habit of making the impossible, possible.

2.45 Chester: tote+ Chester Cup Handicap full result and race replay

Five days after sealing his 20th Classic at the age of 50, this latest masterclass in jockeyship should rank among Dettori's finest as he guided the six-year-old into treacherous territory around the outside of the field before killing the contest in several scintillating strides to secure the winner's share of the £125,000 pot.

"We all have a plan but when you've got that many runners around a tight track you have to adjust your tactic and let the race unfold," Dettori said afterwards.

How the race unfolded for Frankie

Frankie Dettori is a long way back on Falcon Eight (circled), who was slowly away

The pair are still well in rear as the field take them along in the Chester Cup on Friday

Dettori and Falcon Eight (left) start to bear down on the leaders up the home straight

Dettori's mount quickens up impressively, hitting the front within a matter of strides

Dettori coasts to a second Chester Cup victory, 30 years after his first on Star Player

The pair cross the line, with Dettori and Falcon Eight sealing victory for Dermot Weld

"I know he's not the fastest away and they went fast. Luckily the pace was honest throughout, he never took a pull and I saved ground all through the back.

"When I got to the three-and-a-half furlong marker I pulled out three-wide and slingshotted him round the turn. I thought if he hit one of his lazy spots it would be hard to get him going, but he picked up really well."

Watching on from home in Ireland, Weld bore a striking resemblance to The A-Team leader Hannibal Smith, such was his satisfaction at a plan coming together.

"Last autumn I said to myself that the Chester Cup would be an ideal race for him," the trainer said.

"It's a race with great tradition and one I always wanted to win. Ansar was beaten a short head in it under Franny Norton back in 2000 and Silver Concorde went close too, so I really wanted to win it." 

Frankie Dettori celebrates his Chester Cup win on Falcon Eight, trained by Dermot Weld

The first part of Weld's plan was completed after he cajoled Dettori, who partnered Falcon Eight to fifth in the Prix du Cadran in 2019, into reuniting with the six-year-old before part two arrived in style as the son of Galileo stamped his authority over the 16-runner-field.

Weld added: "The plan was for Frankie to take his time. He had top weight and the ground wasn't ideal, so patience was key.

"The reason Frankie likes riding my horses is because I love them to get into a rhythm and that suits Frankie. He waited until the horse handled the track and the ground and then said 'right, let's go.' The rest is history."

'He looked very unlucky'

A return to Group company awaits Falcon Eight next with the Ascot Stakes and Queen Alexandra both mooted as Royal Ascot options, while the Melbourne Cup is under consideration for later in the year.

The Grand Visir ran on well to capture second under Richard Kingscote, two lengths behind the winner, but the hard-luck story of the race belonged to the Mark Johnston-trained Hochfeld, who was denied a clear run two furlongs out before charging home to take third.

By the time Ben Curtis had switched Hochfeld to the outer, Dettori and Falcon Eight were kicking up dust in the distance.

"I'm sure there are ten lads that thought they should have won, but he looked very unlucky," said assistant trainer Charlie Johnston. "He had the perfect pitch for the first circuit and a half, but I don't know how Ben navigated his way out there. That comes with the territory of the race but it feels like one that got away."

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He waited until the horse handled the track and the ground and then said 'right, let's go.' The rest is history
E.W. Terms