Picture : Frankie Dettori after winning the Ebor Handicap on Absurde despite being drawn in 24. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA
Jockey lands two wins at York, including Absurde from out wide
‘If an offer that’s big enough comes, I might consider it’
Greg Wood at York (The Guardian)
If Frankie Dettori is indeed reconsidering his decision to retire at the end of the year, as some reports have suggested this past week, he spent his Saturday afternoon at York racecourse doing a very convincing impression of someone who is not having second thoughts at all. Dettori picked up a retirement presentation from the York executive, then rode a winner and performed the near-obligatory flying dismount after a parade in front of the stands to mark what he expected to be his last success on the Knavesmire – “because I’m drawn in 24 in the Ebor”.
Then he went out and won the Ebor, too, on Absurde, coming home in front from a wide draw for the second year running. And as he had on Wednesday, after an equally masterful performance on Mostahdaf in the International Stakes, Dettori suggested – with a wide grin on his face – that a substantial retainer might yet change his mind. “If an offer that’s big enough comes, I might consider it,” he said. “But it’s got to be big.”
Dettori is, almost certainly, teasing. He has been given a date to be out of his house in Newmarket, has already auctioned off plenty of his trophies and other mementoes from a glittering career, and also parted company with his longtime commercial agent Peter Burrell, to sign up with an agency which is more geared towards media bookings for high-profile talking heads.
Some jockeys, of course, simply wake up one morning and decide that they have had enough, but bringing down the curtain on such a long, successful and incident-packed career as Dettori’s was never going to happen overnight. His extended retirement tour of the sport’s biggest events, meanwhile, is going so swimmingly that it would almost be a shame to spoil it by performing a U-turn now.
But at the same time, when he is still capable of heroics like his winning ride on Absurde, who was in prime position just behind the lead from an early stage despite being drawn widest of all, it is inevitable that some will speculate about a change of mind.
“He’s a horse that likes cover and I was stuck without cover,” Dettori said after beating Rab Havlin on the favourite, Sweet William, by half a length. “Then he wanted to hang right a bit, so I thought: let’s grab the fence.
“I was in front three out and thought: this won’t go down too well with Willie, and at the furlong marker, I believed I was beat when Rab came with a good run. In fairness, he stuck his neck out like Willie Mullins horses do and he won.”
One report on Friday floated the possibility that Wathnan Racing, the nascent but rapidly growing operation funded by the Emir of Qatar, could be a good fit for Dettori next year. But Richard Brown, a bloodstock agent who is closely involved with Wathnan Racing, poured cold water on the idea here. “Nobody’s put that on my radar,” he said. “As far as I know, and I’m not very senior in the operation, there’s absolutely no truth in that.”
While retirement still seems to be a red-hot favourite, however, the moment when Dettori will officially be an ex-jockey has already been pushed back a couple of times, after an initial suggestion that he would exit the stage at the Breeders’ Cup meeting in November at Santa Anita, the track where he rode Ravens Pass to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2008.
First, Dettori decided to head straight from California to Australia, in search of a first success in the Melbourne Cup a few days later. Then he suggested that he would extend his career into December if Kinross, the first leg of his 25-1 double here on Saturday in the City Of York Stakes, runs at the valuable international meeting in Hong Kong a couple of weeks before Christmas.
Absurde could well prove to be Dettori’s mount in Australia’s biggest race, as his Ebor win, as well as being worth £500,000 in prize money, also guarantees a place in the field at Flemington in November.
“I don’t know where Frankie got his energy from in the last 100 yards,” Mullins said. “He was brilliant on him.
“I’ll have to have a word with the owners about Melbourne. They are at a family do today but I’m sure they’d love to go.”