Frankie Dettori spoke yesterday of the greatest gift a jockey can be conferred, a chance ride on the short-priced favourite in a Classic. Scorpion is the name of the beast which will carry the Italian down the Town Moor straight in the 229th Leger on Saturday.
This appointment is further proof of the delightful contract Dettori has organised with his Godolphin employers, as the ride on Scorpion means linking up with the Dubai's team's only significant rivals on the European stage, the mighty Ballydoyle yard of Aidan O'Brien. Kieren Fallon, the Irish team's contracted jockey, rides Oratorio in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on the same day.
"It's an exciting ride for me," Dettori said. "He is a good horse and is going into unknown territory, but they all have to do that. I will speak to Kieren about him."
The portents are stacking up for the former champion jockey. Dettori won the most valuable race, indeed the most remunerative two-year-old race in Europe, on the first day of the meeting yesterday as he partnered the Runyonesque Johnny The Fish to victory in the £300,000 St Leger Yearling Stakes. He admitted he was fortunate, in this single incidence if not life itself.
"It's a lottery race and I think I was lucky the gaps came for me," Dettori said. "Once I got the gaps he was very brave. He likes to see horses coming back to him so it worked out very well."
Mercifully for Brian Meehan, Johnny The Fish's trainer, his young horse does not bear a grudge. "We gelded him soon after we bought him," Meehan said. "There was nothing to make him a stallion in his pedigree. Often the best thing is to cut them."
Johnny The Fish, a 20-1 chance, is the property of a syndicate put together by Johnny Ferrand in the racing alehouse of The Pheasant, just off junction 14 of the M4. They meant to enjoy the moment. "We may have some difficulty getting back to the Pheasant tonight," Ferrand said. "When Brian bought the horse for 26,000gns as a yearling he told us to be patient and keep our nerve and he would win this race for us."
It seemed as though there would be some nocturnal activity too following Out After Dark's success in the afternoon's signature race, the Portland Handicap. He is trained by Clive Cox and owned by The Night Owls. There would be no round at the bar though sponsored by Out After Dark's teenage jockey, Adam Kirby. "He is a horseman as well as a jockey and for a lad who has just turned 17 he is a wonderful rider," Cox said.
Perhaps the most significant display of the day came from Sir Michael Stoute's City Of Troy, who burst through in his race to such effect that he is now third favourite for next spring's 2,000 Guineas. He is part-owned, like just about everything else quoted for the Guineas, by John Magnier.
The fillies' Leger, the Park Hill Stakes, was won by France's Sweet Stream, who came on from the chic of Deauville to the South Yorkshire industrial town. But then old Donny seems to carry some mysterious charm, at least according to Mark Sulkes, who had flown in from California as part of the winning syndicate.
"I come from San Diego," he said, "and we have a track there called Del Mar. It's the same feeling here as it is there with the people and the atmosphere."
NB: Rising Cross
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