Racing: Dettori plays Refuse To Bend mind games

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The Independent Online

Getting a horse into physical condition is one thing, sorting his head out quite another. Horses do not think the way we do, but they do think and yesterday Frankie Dettori turned shrink as he analysed the riddle posed by Refuse To Bend, his mount in Saturday's 107th Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. The enigmatic colt, winner of last year's 2,000 Guineas, had been a flop in the Godolphin team colours until winning the Queen Anne Stakes, his first top-level success since his day of days on the Rowley Mile.

Getting a horse into physical condition is one thing, sorting his head out quite another. Horses do not think the way we do, but they do think and yesterday Frankie Dettori turned shrink as he analysed the riddle posed by Refuse To Bend, his mount in Saturday's 107th Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. The enigmatic colt, winner of last year's 2,000 Guineas, had been a flop in the Godolphin team colours until winning the Queen Anne Stakes, his first top-level success since his day of days on the Rowley Mile.

Between times, the son of Sadler's Wells had failed in the Derby, the Prix du Moulin, the Breeders' Cup Mile, the Dubai Duty Free and the Lockinge Stakes. He was Dettori's pick of the blues' three in the last-named contest and despite his mount's dull eighth place the Italian kept the faith at Royal Ascot. "He is a horse who looked magnificent all winter in Dubai," Dettori said. "He always worked well, always gave me a good feel and I always thought he'd win another Group One. I have to admit I was I was getting confused, but I stuck with him and he delivered."

Patience is a watchword for Godolphin and in Refuse To Bend's case it paid off with his neck defeat of Soviet Song at Ascot. "He had a long, hard campaign last year," said Dettori, "running in the Guineas, Derby and Breeders' Cup and it took its toll on his confidence. It took him a couple of races this season to realise that he was still one of the good horses and he showed that at Ascot. It was a tough race but hopefully it will mark the way forward for him."

But for all his satisfaction over Refuse To Bend's mental rehabilitation, Dettori is under no illusions about the task facing the four-year-old on Saturday, when he not only tries 10 furlongs for the first time but takes on the reigning champion at the distance, Rakti. "I was pleased to see mine put his head in front at Ascot, but Rakti is an exceptional horse," he said of the Michael Jarvis-trained ex-Italian five-year-old. "I saw him last year and I've seen him this year and I think he must have put on 30lbs. He looks a complete mountain of a horse now."

The Eclipse Stakes, for which Rakti is favourite after his demolition of the Prince of Wales's Stakes field, marks the first top-level middle-distance clash of the generations. Refuse To Bend, supplemented to the race (won by his sire 20 years ago) at a cost of £20,000, is vying for second market place with Rakti's Ascot victim, the Irish four-year-old Powerscourt, and the pick of only two three-year-olds among the 14-strong entry for the £409,000 Group One extravaganza, Derby fifth Salford City.

Four 2,000 Guineas winners have won Eclipses as four-year-olds: Colorado in 1927, Darius (1955), Royal Palace (1968) and Brigadier Gerard (1972). "Refuse To Bend is taking on one hell of a field but he had a good wake-up call at Ascot," said Dettori "And from the first minute I rode him in Dubai I thought 10 furlongs would be his trip."

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Brazilian Terrace

(Lingfield 2.40)

NB: Penrith

(Kempton 8.10)

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