Racing: Daylami breaks the circuit of defeat to pay Dettori's dues

BREEDERS' CUP XVI Florida no longer holds any fears for European visitors thanks to Godolphin's galloping grey and his high-flying jockey
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The Independent Online
FRANKIE DETTORI was hacking at the Hydra here on Saturday night. Fighting from his trusty white charger, the Italian slew a personal demon and also banished the beast of Gulfstream Park, the notion that Europe was never to win a Breeders' Cup race at the south Florida track.

It was not, however, a swift fight. Docksider, Lend A Hand, Mull Of Kintyre and Zomaradah had all performed with distinction on Saturday before Dettori and Daylami stepped out on to the track for the Turf race, but none had actually won. That meant that in three Cup rotations here at Gulfstream, spread over a decade, 44 European horses had failed.

And fear of further failure must have been coursing through Dettori. He had not been the same man since his public flogging of words in the aftermath of Swain's defeat in the Classic at Churchill Downs 12 months ago. Dettori said he had forgotten that episode and it meant little to him any more. That was a lie.

As Daylami surged past Royal Anthem and Buck's Boy a crack appeared in the great wall. Dettori's eyes started filling behind the goggles and angry gestures of success followed. "Come on me," he bellowed at his American audience, throwing his helmet into the air. "What about Swain now?"

We had seen the Cordero-inspired dismount many times before, but we had never seen one of this adrenaline-fuelled altitude. Dettori got close to the God he addressed just before the stalls opened. Then he came down and simply jumped up and down on the spot in delight, like a child as the biscuit tin is being opened.

Dettori had shown the detractors, he had shown himself and he had shown his Godolphin masters what he could do. The blue team may be the most powerful army within this sport, but, until Saturday, they had just been a ragged band at this competition.

By the time Lend A Hand was jumped on by three equine muggers at the climax of the Mile they had sent out nine runners, nine losers, at the series. Then, in one glorious moment, Daylami knocked over the domino stack of failures. Sheikh Mohammed, Godolphin's founder, watched developments from the Middle East, where he was attending the Dubai Air Show.

"This is a dream for us," Saeed bin Suroor, the trainer, said. "Finally we can win a Breeders' Cup. I spoke to Frankie before the race and I told him the eyes of the world would be on him and he had to do something. Thank God he ran very good."

Dettori himself was on the front of the Miami Herald yesterday, the photograph suggesting he was floating on air. In a further sense, he was. "It's been a wicked 12 months," the jockey said, "and I'm glad it's only been 12 months. Everyone tried to kill me last year, but it made me a stronger person. There are a lot more important things in life and you have to turn the page and move on.

"All the press eyes were on me just waiting for me to [bleep] up, but I redeemed myself. They say revenge is a dish best served cold and I had mine freezing. I'm back.

"The last 100 yards I felt every sort of emotion: joy, tears, happiness, sadness. Even now I have to pinch myself and I don't believe it's true."

Others felt emotion for him. "I'm pleased for Frankie because I've known him a long time and he's always been a personable type of guy," Pat Day, who won his second successive Classic on Cat Thief, said at yesterday's winners' breakfast. "He's a little wild and a little emotional but he loves this game, and you don't get to where he has gotten without being able to horseback a little. What happened yesterday should end a particular bad chapter of his life."

Dettori had asked God to find him a path around Gulfstream's paperclip turns. He acknowledged the part his four-legged friend had played in charting their winding route. "Daylami came to the rescue," the Italian said. "As soon as we got around the second turn I got him to relax and when I pressed the button he took off. He was a machine out there.

"This is the best horse I've ridden. He's got a big heart, he really tries for you and he's a joy to ride. They don't come very often. I'm going to miss him."

While Dettori was soon on board a flight back to Europe to partner Godolphin's Oriental Fashion to success in the Premio Ribot in Rome yesterday, Daylami himself was recuperating in barn 19 of the Gulfstream quarantine facility. The principal consequence of battle was minor disintegration of his hooves.

For him the big war is over. The grey's task now is to convey his excellence at the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud in Co. Kildare, to which he will be transported this morning. He goes as the winner of the newly instituted Emirates World Series Of Racing, a championship which may not go to the best horse on the planet every year but has managed to do so first time up.

The Americans knew what they had seen. "Daylami just ran a great race," James Bond, the trainer of Val's Prince, said. Bill Mott, who had Royal Anthem and Yagli second and fourth respectively, added: "My hat is off to that horse."

Daylami did more than just win a race on Saturday, though. He gave us a lesson in the art of the possible. Before 45,000 people in temperatures of 80 degrees, he and Frankie Dettori showed that horses from a different continent can win in this sweaty corner of the United States. Many beasts from Europe will now come again to run here in Florida and for that we can thank just one.