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It would be special to win the Epsom Oaks on Emily Upjohn after we lost my hero Lester Piggott

, It would be special to win the Epsom Oaks on Emily Upjohn after we lost my hero Lester Piggott

IT seems just like yesterday when I won my first Oaks.

Of course there has been quite a bit of water under the bridge since 1994 but it was an unforgettable moment for me.

Frankie Dettori is set to ride hot favourite Emily Upjohn in the Oaks

Balanchine was the filly and she gave me my first-ever win in a Classic so this day will always be special for me.

I was 23 at the time and — as they say — you never forget your first girlfriend!

Balanchine was the one who got Godolphin going too. She was trained by UAE-based Hilal Ibrahim and, three weeks after she gave them their first Classic in the Oaks, we went on to win the Irish Derby.

She is still the last filly to have done that. She was brilliant.

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Since that soggy day up on the Downs all those years ago I have been lucky enough to go on and win five more Oaks — including one on ‘big girl’ Enable.

My great hero Lester Piggott won six Oaks and a total of 46 Classics in England and Ireland.

I’ve won 21  in England  and 10 in Ireland so you can rest easy, Long Fellow, I will never catch you up!

At least I hope today I can make it 32 on Emily Upjohn. She is a short price to win but in racing, just as in life, nothing is certain.

I’m always high on emotion at this time of year.

Not just because of the Classics today and tomorrow — but because it coincides with the anniversary of my plane crash, where Ray Coch-rane and I were lucky to survive.

Dettori will be hoping to perform another flying dismount after the Oaks

That was 22 years ago on Tuesday and it reminds me to enjoy life more each time it comes around.

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And I’m certainly ready to enjoy this afternoon! I’ll be buzzing even more than usual this morning — and the adrenalin will really kick in as we get to the racecourse.

Epsom is a one-of-a-kind track, and the hardest course to ride anywhere in the world — bar none.

The buzz of the big crowds, the barbecues and bands makes it even more of a unique test for the horse.

There’s been a fair bit of rain around, and even though it was quite slow at York, I would prefer to have her run on good ground so let’s hope it stays dry.

My filly has won three out of three and took her trial in great style, so she’s a worthy favourite.

She’s done everything right, and everything that’s been asked of her so far, but we’re now up against horses we’ve never met before.

The boss John and I are all very happy with her — she’s in great shape — so we’re ready for it and we’ll give it our all.

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As for the opposition, I know a bit about Tuesday as I rode her in the 1,000 Guineas. I think she’s a solid filly who will appreciate the step up in trip.

As I say, dealing with the atmosphere at Epsom is all part and parcel of the challenge.

Emily will have the hood on before the start like normal, but I don’t see any real issues. She’s a young filly who  is learning all the time and I don’t think she’s got a bad bone in her really — she just wants to please you all the time.

We’ve won a very good trial in the Musidora and now we just need to turn up on the day and get a bit of luck. We have a good draw so no complaints . . . yet!

It’s a shame Martin Dwyer doesn’t get to ride his big horse Pyledriver (3.10) in the Coronation Cup.

Poor Martin has had a nightmare time. He smashed his knee in a gallop, then it was six weeks or more before he got operated on because of covid, and then he had to have more work done to it.

His recovery has been far from a walk in the park and I feel for him because this is his good horse.

At least Martin will be happy his Everton team avoided relegation!

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I’m very happy to be riding the horse and I will do my best on him. If we are lucky enough to win it will be for Martin, that’s for sure.

There’s no doubt Pyledriver is a good horse. He gave me a tremendous spin in the Dubai Sheema Classic, where I could have finished even closer than fourth but didn’t get much luck in the straight.

He has to be respected as he’s been here and done it — that’s a big box to tick.

  • Frankie Dettori is a Sporting Index ambassador

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