Frankie Dettori starts new chapter with full book


For Frankie Dettori, the first day of the rest of his professional life could be said to be tomorrow at Newmarket. His book of seven mounts includes two in the silks of Godolphin, with whom he ended an 18-year association on Sunday, but while there will be necessarily some business as usual for the moment, life as a freelance awaits the Italian next year. And with it, an intriguing possible tilt at a fourth jockeys' championship.

After their tremendous and mutually beneficial partnership, the jockey and Sheikh Mohammed's elite team now have different agendas. Dettori, feeling marginalised by the Blues' recruitment and promotion of rising star Mickael Barzalona, brought matters to a head by taking the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe ride on Camelot, representing the sheikh's greatest rivals, the Coolmore partners.

But there has been enough sparkling water under the bridge – including 110 top-level winners – for the two sides to remain pragmatic colleagues, if on a different basis. "There has been no falling out," said Godolphin's racing manager, Simon Crisford, yesterday. "And Frankie will be with us until his contract expires at the end of the year. As we've said, after that I am sure he will ride for us when it suits both parties. The difference will be that he will not be our retained jockey."

At the next two international carnivals Dettori's Godolphin mounts will include Artigiano in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Cavalryman in the Melbourne Cup. Tomorrow he will be on Ikhtisas, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, and Quintilian, from Mahmood al Zarooni's stable.

With a full book he will also partner Sunbula (Charles Hills), Goodwood Mirage (John Dunlop), Master Ming (Brian Meehan), Zain Eagle (Gerard Butler) and No Poppy (Tim Easterby). A retainer from a powerful operation can bring financial security, and does not preclude a rider from taking outside mounts when not otherwise required and within reason (which riding for the Irish outfit was not).

But it can also bring limitations and Dettori's agent, the ex-jockey Ray Cochrane, looks forward to having his man (whose three titles did come during his period with Godolphin, in more relaxed times in 1994, 1995 and 2004), less constrained. "We will set our sights on winning big races," he said yesterday. "And we'll have a crack at being champion. We have discussed that in the past and it shouldn't be too hard.

"The biggest thing of him not being retained by Godolphin is that I'll be able to kick on [with bookings] five days in advance, and make it my aim to get him on the best horse. Godolphin didn't let me know where he was committed until 48 hours beforehand.

"He rides for a hell of a lot of trainers here in Newmarket and has links all over the world so he won't go short of work. He's ridden over 200 winners in a season before."

Dettori, who has ridden 50 British winners this year to champion-elect Richard Hughes' 169, is still the only jockey instantly identifiable by the wider public (witness his recently being given as the answer by a University Challenge student to the question of who finally won the Grand National on his 15th attempt – eat your heart out, A P McCoy). More than that, he is still arguably the best. He is 42 in December but such as Barzalona, half his age, should only stand in wonder at the ride from the front he gave Joshua Tree to take the Canadian International at Woodbine nine days ago.

The emerging power in world racing, the Qatari al-Thani family, who underwrote Saturday's £3m Champions Day at Ascot through their investment company Qipco, will avail themselves of Dettori's talent if they need to, but not on any formal basis.

Sheikh Fahad al-Thani's Pearl Bloodstock and Qatar Racing entities are due to name a retained jockey later in the week, but it will not be Dettori.

"He is a wonderful rider," said Sheikh Fahad's manager, David Redvers, yesterday, "and we would love to use him if we need to. But as to his being our retained rider, that is not going to happen." Jamie Spencer is tipped to take the al-Thani No 1 spot.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Nickels And Dimes (2.20 Yarmouth)

Made a promising debut, staying on best of all after a slow start. The step up to a mile should suit.

Next Best: Mr Mole (2.40 Exeter)

Babyish on his bumper debut but won and should carry on over hurdles.