Sue Montgomery: Dettori raring to conquer world
Saturday 31 October 2009
Jumping shares the spotlight with Flat racing on this afternoon's programme as the pulse of one branch of the sport quickens and the other slows, on the domestic front at least. This afternoon marks the last afternoon until next April that horses will stride out in anger at Newmarket and after one more weekend, the gradual baton change will be complete.
Which is entirely as it should be. Racing, with animals and an outdoor life at its heart, moves with the pulse of the seasons and, as this golden autumn has shown, no arbitrary date can be set by marketeers for the end of one phase of nature and the start of the next. And while mainstream Flat racing is over here, there are still a few loose ends to be tied up.
Champion rider Ryan Moore is so far ahead of his rivals that his title trophy has already been handed over, but the battle between the apprentices Freddie Tylicki and David Probert is like to go to the wire at the turf season finale at Doncaster. And in France there is the matter of the Critérium International, a Group One two-year-old contest that has spotlighted two subsequent Arc winners in seven years. The owner of one of them, Dalakhani, sends the Prix Marcel Boussac heroine Rosanara to tomorrow's renewal. Her rivals will include one of Godolphin's recent recruits, Emerald Commander, the highly regarded John Gosden-trained all-weather maiden winner Prizefighting and, from Ballydoyle, Midas Touch, who scored by seven lengths at the Curragh.
The Godolphin team and Frankie Dettori have been unstoppable in recent weeks and yesterday at Newmarket a treble took the Italian's tally for the home season to 103. He will leave Emerald Commander to Ted Durcan, however. After his six rides at Newmarket this afternoon, his last of the year in Britain, he is off globetrotting, heading tonight for Australia, where he is due to partner the Blues' Kirklees in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.
The valuable, historic two-mile contest – worth £1.5m and first run in 1861 – may indeed be the race that stops one particular nation, but Dettori put it in some perspective yesterday. "It's a big event, and a great prize to ride for," he said, "but it's a handicap, so in a way you take the result with a pinch of salt. We'll give it a go, though. Kirklees is a solid sort of horse and he was staying on well in his prep over 12 furlongs last week." Dettori's century was the 12th of his career and, though welcome, was almost a footnote.
"I usually bat somewhere round the seventies," he said, "but the team has been going so well in the past month, with 40-odd wins, that I thought it would be a shame to get so close and not do it. And with racing a bit mundane over the past few weeks it was something to get up for in the morning. With the horses running so well I've been looking forward to getting the paper and going through the form and looking forward to going to work. If I'd ended the season on 99 I'd still have my job, but it's been a bit of fun."
For those at the top of the riders' leader board, it is the top prizes that count, the ones that identify the best at level weights, like next weekend's $25.5m (£15.5m) Breeders' Cup festival in California. "I'm looking forward to Santa Anita more than Flemington," Dettori said. "I've got some great rides and I'd say Mastery, Delegator and Sara Louise would be my best chances for Godolphin."
Dettori's elitist sentiments were echoed by Moore, winning the jockeys' title for the third time in four years and 4-9 favourite for a fourth next year. He warned, however, that he will not be on the evening meeting treadmill in future. "The championship is not the most important thing," he said. "I'll give it a go, for sure, but I won't be going to Wolverhampton on a Friday and Saturday night, or Kempton on a Wednesday. It is not possible to do that amount when you have the big days at the weekend."
Moore, attached to Sir Michael Stoute's yard, is off to California tomorrow, and then, for jockeys like him, beckons a global winter circuit. "After Santa Anita," added Dettori, "I'm back here in Europe for a French Group One. Then I'm riding in South Africa, a jockeys' challenge in Mauritius, and Hong Kong. In the new year I'm off skiing. And then work starts again in Dubai."
Today's jumping feature, the Bet 365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, has attracted a disappointing field of just five runners, including the veteran pair Ollie Magern, twice a winner in the past, and Snoopy Loopy, and a chance is taken with the younger legs and untested stamina of one of last term's most promising novices, Deep Purple (2.55). For the best of the day at the Yorkshire track try the mare My Petra (2.20), who had several chasing options but reverts to hurdles and her own sex and will go off very fresh.
Ascot's centrepiece, the United House Gold Cup, should provide a competitive spectacle, with 17 runners over three miles. At attractive odds Hold Em (1.50) will appreciate the quick ground and return to three miles.
Why Sea The Stars and his admirers could never enjoy best of both worlds
It will be some comfort to his many fans that Sea The Stars has safely made the short journey in Co Kildare from John Oxx's Currabeg training stable to the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud, where he is to start his new life as a stallion next spring. It may also be small comfort to those who longed to see the majestic colt compete as a more mature four-year-old athlete.
A week ago my colleague Jamie Corrigan put forward a couple of scenarios that would enable a horse both to race and procreate, wondering, perfectly reasonably, why neither – firstly that Sea The Stars would physically combine both duties, or secondly the use of artificial insemination – appeared acceptable.
With very few exceptions, young male horses in the prime of their sexual life would have the mental discipline both to mate and race. As it is, trainers have to keep the lid on developing urges, relying on routine and the relative youth of their charges, but even so, many colts in training have the equivalent of teenage wet dreams on a regular basis.
Sex and battle do not go together; just ask the Spartans. And the muscular development for each is different anyway.
Artificial insemination is successfully used in non-thoroughbred breeding, where the numbers are smaller. But two prime caveats exist here; one, that with constraint-of-trade laws allowing no limit and human error (or malpractice) all too possible, the thoroughbred gene pool and rigorous monitoring of stud books could be thrown into chaos. And two, the product being marketed – in this case Sea The Stars – might devalue itself with poor performances.
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Cockney Trucker (1.20 Ascot)
Making debut over fences against more experienced rivals, but was a smart hurdler and has physique to be a useful recruit to bigger obstacles.
Swop (2.05 Newmarket)
Did not get home over Cambridgeshire's nine furlongs but, with the help of a drop back to a mile today may be his turn again.
*One to watch
Ellmau (E McMahon) has been in good heart on turf since returning from a summer break and should be of interest when returning to the all-weather.
*Chris McGrath's Nap
Micheal Flips (3.00 Ascot).
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