‘I have nothing to prove… if I do make a balls of it, it doesn’t matter!’: Frankie Dettori is super-relaxed for his 28th and final ride in the Derby… as the jockey, 52, targets dream ending on 3-1 chance Arrest
- Frankie Dettori will ride 3-1 shot Arrest in the Epsom Derby on Saturday
- The 52-year-old Italian will hang up his saddle at the end of the season
- He has two Classics in the bag by winning the 2,000 Guineas and the Oaks
The only thing Frankie Dettori can remember about his first ride in the Betfred Derby on Pollen Count in 1992 is the old way of getting to the start of the most important race in British Flat racing by taking your mount across the Downs at Epsom past the traditional gipsy gathering.
But the 52-year-old Italian, who will retire at the end of the season, genuinely believes his final Derby ride on 3-1 chance Arrest has a shot at making his 28th and final ride in the 244th running of the race dramatically more memorable.
It seems too much to hope that the latest in a series of last chances for Dettori before he rides in Britain for the final time at Ascot on October 21 can deliver a dream ending and provide a fitting storyline to a race that has been overshadowed by threats of disruption from animal rights activists.
The reality is that Arrest would prefer the Epsom going to be softer rather than good to firm. But discounting Dettori would ignore the fact that the jockey who has won the Derby twice with Authorized (2007) and Golden Horn (2015) has always employed the sport’s best scriptwriters.
Jockey Frankie Dettori will ride 3-1 shot Arrest in the Epsom Derby on Saturday
He already has two Classics in the bag having won last month’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Chaldean and Friday’s Oaks on Soul Sister.
Dettori says the fact that he is riding the racing merry-go-round for the last time has been liberating, lifting pressure from his shoulders rather than increasing it.
That is good news for John and Thady Gosden, co-trainers of Chester Vase winner Arrest, the colt’s Juddmonte owner-breeders, and the army of punters who have booked Arrest, a son of wonder-horse Frankel, into favouritism on a tide of sentiment.
Dettori, who has kept his emotions in check so far this season, said: ‘Believe it or not I am so chilled. Maybe it is because I have nothing to prove, maybe because if I do make a balls of it, it doesn’t matter! I am embracing it and am super-relaxed. That’s surprised me, I thought I would be the opposite. It will be a different kettle of fish when I get to October and it is the last few days. That will be difficult.
‘When I said I was going to retire back in December I never thought I would be able to ride a horse with a great chance to win the Derby, so it is a great position to be in.
‘I thought I would find it hard to find a Derby ride. It has surprised me that I am in the position to have a proper shot at it.
‘Arrest was all frame last year. He has filled out to be a strong, good-looking horse. He has improved throughout the spring and won his trial very well. We know the distance is no problem.
‘He has a bit of a high-knee action but we took him to Epsom and gave him a gallop around the course and he seemed fine. It looks a wide-open Derby and I feel as though I am going in there with as good a chance as anyone.’
Dettori’s mood contrasts starkly to before Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Authorized gave the Italian the first of his two Derby wins in 2007, after building up a sequence of 14 losing Derby rides.
John and Thady Gosden’s Chester Vase winner Arrest is a son of wonder-horse Frankel
Back then the talk was all about how Dettori’s Derby record contrasted with record nine-time winner Lester Piggott and if Dettori would be like Sir Gordon Richards, the 26-time champion jockey who had to wait until his 28th and final Derby ride on Pinza in 1953 to break his duck.
‘It was a nightmare every time it came to the Derby,’ said Dettori. ‘I rode loads of good ones like Cape Verdi and Dubai Millennium that were beaten. The point about the Derby is that it is only once a year. Once it is gone it is gone.
‘At Royal Ascot you have 35 races, if you make a balls-up of one you have another four or five chances that afternoon. When I won in 2007 it was a relief. It was like the last piece of the jigsaw falling into place. There was a lot on me and it was a relief.
‘I got to enjoy Golden Horn. I was older and my kids were older. The pressure of trying to win for a first time wasn’t there. It was one of my biggest thrills from one single race.
‘If you’re a Formula One driver and you win every race but not the Monaco Grand Prix, you kick yourself. The same if you’re a top golfer and you win everything but the Masters.
‘For a tennis player it would be Wimbledon. For the career that I’ve had, over 35 years, I’ve won every race more or less in the world and been champion jockey. To not win the Derby, I would have been a bit sour in my rocking chair!
‘It is the most important race in the world. They have been breeding thoroughbreds for hundreds of years to win the Derby and that will be the case for hundreds of years to come. As a jockey, when you start, it is the race you want to win and it is the same for trainers, owners and breeders. It means so much.’
Among those standing in Dettori’s way is Aidan O’Brien, a rival who has been a frequent ally in big races in recent seasons.
His three runners include Auguste Rodin, whose merits O’Brien continues to trumpet despite a dismal run in last month’s 2,000 Guineas as he seeks a remarkable ninth win in the race.
The Italian has won the Derby twice with Authorized (2007) and Golden Horn (2015)
Dettori has two Classics in the bag after winning the Oaks on Friday and the 2,000 Guineas
But it is unlucky Dante Stakes third Passenger, representing last year’s winning combination of jockey Richard Kingscote and trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who Frankie is most wary of.
‘We still don’t know how good he is,’ said Dettori. ‘He has only run twice and never got a fair crack in the Dante. He could be anything.’
For the record, in that first Dettori Derby his fellow riders included a bevy of greats including Piggott, Willie Carson, Steve Cauthen, Pat Eddery, Mick Kinane, Michael Roberts and Walter Swinburn.
Pollen Count, also appropriately trained by John Gosden, ended up finishing an undistinguished 16th of the 18 starters behind John Reid-ridden Dr Devious.
No wonder Frankie doesn’t remember it but we, and Epsom, won’t forget him.
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