Racing: Sands sweeps over Dettori's dismay

IT WAS back to normal yesterday for Frankie Dettori, charity spokesman, clothes horse, prospective father and now, once again, a leading jockey.

The Italian's public day began in the middle of the morning. He appeared in front of the television cameras espousing the merits of the NSPCC Racing to Help Children campaign. Then, in between regular telephone calls to his pregnant wife, Catherine, it was on to the owners' lunch party at John Gosden's Stanley House stables in Newmarket.

The small, slick-backed figure in a grey suit and blue tie of his Yves Saint-Laurent sponsors moved easily among the guests. Finally he slipped equally swiftly away as it was time for the core product which has led to these other engagements.

Frankie Dettori can enjoy his race-riding once again now. On Saturday, over the 90 seconds of the 2,000 Guineas, he largely expunged the memory of his worst moments in the saddle over a similar span of time at Churchill Downs last November. That day he beat Swain into defeat in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and his detractors soon started lashing out themselves. The American press even suggested that Dettori should be stripped of his retainer with Godolphin. The mighty had fallen. "I played a lot more golf after Swain," he said yesterday. "Just in case.

"The Breeders' Cup was the last big race of last season so I've had a lot of time to think about it over the winter. The 2,000 Guineas is the first big one back this season so I hope we can forget about what has gone before now.

"People have been judging me on one race when I've had a 10-year career. I would like it if it's another 10 years before they tell me I've messed up again.

"I think people were kind of hard on me, but I didn't get here and build a career because I was lucky. I've worked hard at it. Now I'm prepared to go out there and prove everybody wrong."

Island Sands, Saturday's winning conveyance, altered a few perceptions himself. He did not bring a great reputation or dimensions into the July course parade ring, though his coat shone deeply with the impression of gradual conditioning rather than last-minute lacquer.

Commander Collins, with his head held high, was far more overt, making a dreadful sound on his bit as if chewing marbles. Enrique bowed his head apologetically and Mujahid was all torso, a Spacehopper of a horse.

Once the stalls opened Island Sands did not get much chance to judge the physique of his opponents as he was sent straight into the lead. It was a teasing pace to begin with but, at half-way, Dettori depressed the accelerator to the floor.

Island Sands was passed briefly by Mujahid, but the latter's brief rocket surge ended in explosion just inside the final furlong. Enrique was the last to challenge and, though he came from some way back, he was delivered in time by Kieren Fallon. Island Sands was just too good, Dettori's judgement of pace spot on.

The jockey knew this was a job well done, a thorough redemption. He prodded himself in the chest, crossed himself and sent a kiss and his gaze up to the heavens. It looked like St Vitus's dance on horseback.

Dettori was still full of it on his return and pointed a finger at an interviewer's television camera. "I have a message for Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of the Godolphin [team] in Kentucky," he said. "I've done my bit here, now it's up to you."

There was a sense here that Dettori had had to prove himself again within the desert-nurtured team. When the flak was flying around after Kentucky it may not all have come from outside the tent.

This, of course, is not the official bulletin from Godolphin. The main players in the operation, including Sheikh Mohammed himself, got in at 6am yesterday after supervising Worldly Manner's abortive effort in the Kentucky Derby. "I thought he gave the horse a tremendous ride, as Frankie does," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said.

The 2,000 Guineas is intended to be a beginning for a Classic racehorse, but recently it has become a terminus for the likes of King Of Kings, Entrepreneur and Pennekamp. Island Sands will next try to improve his ranking in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. "I think he'll probably go a bit farther than a mile because he wasn't stopping yesterday, but a mile is a good trip for the moment," Crisford said.

Island Sands will share Godolphin's miling responsibilities this season with Aljabr, who may be seen out next in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Last season's leading juvenile returns to Newmarket after moving sloppily in practice before the Kentucky Derby and then going wrong behind on the eve of the race. Aljabr comes back from America with his reputation in tatters, seeking to relocate glories. Another member of his team should be able to give advice on that.

Comments