Frankie Dettori: an appreciation
I’m not going to the Breeders’ Cup, but nevertheless was pleased to learn yesterday that Frankie Dettori is, having lined up four mounts, according to MailOnline. That was hardly in doubt, of course, but one of the first things I did on Monday after the PP’s came out was to check to see how many pre-entrants used the wonderfully effervescent and supremely talented 41-year-old Italian jockey on a regular basis.
Out of 180 horses, there was just one, Godolphin Racing’s Artigiano, in the Juvenile Turf (Dettori also rode Cogito to a fourth in the Jamaica last out). That alone seemed like flimsy excuse to fly across the Atlantic and the continental U.S., but in the meantime, MailOnline reports that Dettori will ride Artigiano and Reddam Racing’s Cogito in the Turf, as well as Waterway Run in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Flower Bowl winner Nahrain in the Filly and Mare Turf.
Although Dettori was banned from the BC Saturday card last year as a seven-day suspension by British racing authorities began, he rode Nahrain to a second place behind Perfect Shirl in the F&M Turf that Friday. He’s missed just three BC’s since 1990.
Dettori’s exploits and success have been extensively and rightfully documented to the point where he is the epitome of the globe-trotting celebrity jockey. He’s won every British Classic race at least once, and his 10 Breeders’ Cup victories, most by an active rider, include four in the Turf and one in the Classic, on Raven’s Pass in 2008. He’s been Godolphin’s contract jockey for almost two decades, a relationship that will end — amicably, it was reported — next year.
As a non-globe-trotting, non-celebrity turf writer, I was still fortunate to gain some first-hand exposure to Dettori when he won the Pattison Canadian International on Joshua Tree at Woodbine in Toronto two Sundays ago. Dettori’s profoundly well-measured gear-shifting on the front end was a marvel in itself; then the fun began.
There no longer is anything even remotely spontaneous about Dettori’s trademark flying dismount, but as Peter O’Toole said in “My Favorite Year”, “It’s just ... fun!” The fans chanted his name as he left the course and literally embraced and smooched him, before he comically shouted, “Help! Help!” to the heavens with his palms on either side of his mouth.
Upstairs in the press box, he and the ever-gracious Lucie Botti, representing her husband, trainer Marco Botti, talked about Joshua Tree. Under Dettori’s guidance, the 2010 International winner was sneaky-slow early, then portioned his energy perfectly from the three-eighths pole, holding off the desperate late charge by long shot Dandino by half a length.
“Most of the horses in the field had a chance, and nobody wanted to sacrifice their horse to take me on and set it up for the others,” Dettori said. “When it’s a small field like that, sometimes you can get away with it.”
“Oh, they were coming at the end. I could hear it; I could hear the wind,” he said, bursting into laughter, again. “I was the hare; the hounds were coming.”
Alas, the Canadian International card did not produce many BC runners, just Durham Cup winner Delegation (Dirt Mile) and Nearctic winner Next Question (Turf Sprint), despite boasting three Grade I “Win and You’re In” races. Joshua Tree and E.P. Taylor winner Siyouma likely will race in Japan next.
Still, it was a gloriously international day, a variety of little flags waving around every corner. I swear, there were more people speaking French than English in the walking ring, and the musical threesomes in rotating shifts at the front entrance prompted a little girl on the escalator to ask her father, “Why are all the bands from other countries?”
This effect was only enhanced by the presence of Lanfranco “Frankie”, father of five and a global proponent of la dolce vita. He merrily marched into the pressbox swigging a LaBatt Blue Light the way a bottle of beer was meant to be swigged, with gusto.
“I love the horse. Look, let’s enjoy today and digest that, and I’ll leave the plans to the owner and the trainer.”