LONDON // Simon Crisford sought to calm the storm that erupted on Wednesday night surrounding rumours of Frankie Dettori's retirement from the saddle.
Dettori will not ride in either of the British Classics over the next two days for the first time in 12 years after Mickael Barzalona was declared for the ride on Godolphin's Kailani in the Oaks at Epsom tomorrow.
The decision stemmed from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, but is one that is consistent with the team's philosophy of keeping riders on horses on which they have excelled in the past.
"If we strike up winning combinations with horses and jockeys, those are the associations that will stay intact until we decide to change them. Jockeys that suit particular horses will stay on those horses," Crisford, the Dubai-based operation's racing manager, told The National.
Dettori was on board Kailani when the pair scored in a maiden at Yarmouth last season. Although Kailani is a daughter of Kazzia, who Dettori partnered to victory in the Oaks ten years ago, he lost the ride when Kailani strode seven lengths clear under Barzalona on her seasonal bow at Newmarket in a Listed contest this month.
Dettori's standing as number one jockey to Godolphin was eroded when Barzalona and Silvestre De Sousa were recruited during the Dubai World Cup Carnival, but the high-profile nature of the Derby meeting at Epsom has pushed the situation firmly into the limelight.
Dettori refuted all rumours of his retirement on Wednesday night after riding a winner at Lingfield Park for Saeed Bin Suroor and suggested he was set to remain in the saddle for at least the next five years.
"All this talk of retirement and pecking orders is baffling to me and has come out of the blue. I'm quite surprised and you can be sure when I retire it will be decided by me," he said.
In his desperation to illustrate how in demand he still was, Dettori revealed that Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle operation made contact this week to sound him out about the possibility of riding one of their six runners in today's Oaks. Dettori rode Scorpion to win the St Leger for the Coolmore breeding operation linked to Ballydoyle, Godolphin's global rivals, in 2005.
Dettori has been first rider for Godolphin since the operation started in 1994 and has had more rides in Britain this season than Barzalona. Juggling the riders, their wishes, and their different abilities has been likened to that of the Premier League football manager.
"My job hasn't got any harder," Crisford said. "It's simply matching up the right horse with the right jockey. It's more straight-forward than being a Premiership football manager as they will all get their chance.
"We have employed two new jockeys this year and we are looking to give them as many chances as possible. It is equal opportunities across the board really."
Much like Chelsea' Fernando Torres, they are words that Dettori will not want to hear.
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