Racing: Dream eludes Dettori but not the 230 club

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The Independent Online

If Frankie Dettori was seeking consolation, as he viewed the spectacle of the quarters of Motivator lengthening away from his mount Dubawi for a facile Derby victory, he may have reflected on the patience of Sir Gordon Richards. Champion jockey no fewer than 26 times, the great knight of the turf had to wait until his 28th Derby before finally capturing the Blue Riband event. The down-side, from the Italian's perspective, was that Richards was 49 at the time.

If Frankie Dettori was seeking consolation, as he viewed the spectacle of the quarters of Motivator lengthening away from his mount Dubawi for a facile Derby victory, he may have reflected on the patience of Sir Gordon Richards. Champion jockey no fewer than 26 times, the great knight of the turf had to wait until his 28th Derby before finally capturing the Blue Riband event. The down-side, from the Italian's perspective, was that Richards was 49 at the time.

Somehow you don't anticipate the exuberant rider to still be in the saddle at that age. Yet his wretched fortunes in the race dictate it may take that long if he is ever to secure the elusive prize. Dettori has won Derbys from Macau to Hamburg, but never the authentic thing, the original and best. "The one glaring omission from my CV," he once said in frustration. Runner-up 10 years ago on Tamure is the closest he has come.

Here, yesterday, his mount, Dubawi, the Irish 2000 Guineas victor, trained by Saeed bin Suroor for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation, finished an eight-lengths third. It was, in truth, a respectable performance from a horse who was always doubtful to possess the stamina over the 1m 4f distance, but from Dettori's viewpoint it was an irrelevance.

He restrained the son of the mighty Dubai Millennium as long as possible, and was ideally positioned rounding Tattenham Corner, but as Johnny Murtagh gave the favourite, Motivator, his head two furlongs out, and that horse responded, striding out impressively, Dubawi flattered for only a second or two to suggest he was the leader's equal before it became obvious that pursuit was futile.

Dettoriana. That could be the collective noun for Frankie Dettori's post-Derby litany of excuses. Which explanation for his mount's failure would we hear from the Italian this time, his 13th Derby ride? For once, last season's champion rider was not his usual garrulous self, and confined himself to a brief diagnosis, one we've heard all to often about his Derby charges: "He ran a super race, but just didn't stay."

Beforehand there had been no real confidence from the rider. Despite the colt's obvious class, his sire lacked the necessary stamina to win over the Derby's 1m 4f on his only career defeat. Neither did the colt's dam, Zomaradah, stay this distance.

By the line, with the tank beginning to register empty, he couldn't even claim second place. Michael Tabor, the owner of the French-trained Walk In The Park, partnered by Alan Munro, enjoyed that pleasure. Munro, who has been riding in Hong Kong, and only returned to his homeland in the spring, declared: "He's a terrific horse with a lot of ability. His ability to act around Epsom and keep on the rail really helped. In the straight, he switched out and he really kicked, but there was one I couldn't catch."

When the Japanese rider Yutaka Take came over to ride on this course, Dettori told him it was like climbing Mount Fuji. "First you race up a steep slope. Then you sprint down the other side. Even in the straight you are never running on a level surface." He added that most of the runners would be unable to handle the twists and gradients. The first two finishers tend to be the ones that cope, he added.

That was certainly true of the runner-up, and particularly of Motivator, whose ownership by 230 racing enthusiasts may not be in the Godolphin or Coolmore bracket, but neither are they exactly paupers.

The Royal Ascot Racing Club has a joining fee of £6,000 and an annual subscription of £4,700, though this victory will cover the cost of future subscriptions. Members, who include Lord Lloyd-Webber, the pop impresario Simon Cowell, Sir Clement Freud, the football magnate Ken Bates, the comedian Mel Smith and the music mogul Chris Wright, also now own a horse whose value as a stallion is at least £10m; and if he wins the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, anything up to £50m. When the horse is eventually sold, the proceeds will be split 50-50 between the Ascot Authority and the club members. By any judgement, not that poor an investment.

The club's horses are purchased by the bloodstock expert John Warren, who developed an eye for equine excellence under the tutelage of the trainers Barry Hills and Peter Walwyn, amongst others. Warren, who is bloodstock advisor to the Queen, enthused: "This is what we all dream about when we go to the sales looking for horses of his calibre."

Warren recalled the moment he first glimpsed what would become a Derby victor at the Tattersalls Sales in Newmarket in the Autumn of 2003: "I liked Motivator very much. It's a bit like looking at a girl - you either like them, or you don't."

He added: "Motivator had the frame but not the muscle development at the time. The muscle formation on a later-maturing horse is completely different to that of a sprinter. It's a bit like comparing a Linford Christie with a Kenyan marathon runner. I took the view that he used himself beautifully. You could not hear him when he walked as his feet never seemed to touch the ground."

Here yesterday, we knew precisely what he meant. In his slipstream, Dettori could only accept the inevitable, and, like Sir Gordon Richards, wait for his year to come. As it surely must. Mustn't it?

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