x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Frankie Dettori is hungrier than ever

A 10-day break does the Godolphin jockey good as he prepares Delegator for Saturday's July Cup race over 1,200m.

Delegator, left, ridden by Frankie Dettori, proved he could tackle 1,200m by winning the Duke of York Stakes in May.
Delegator, left, ridden by Frankie Dettori, proved he could tackle 1,200m by winning the Duke of York Stakes in May.

Trying to lose weight is most people's idea of hell, but for a jockey it is doubly so.

For every kilogram they put on the effort to take it off requires a brutal regime. For Frankie Dettori, however, who has just enjoyed an enforced holiday ahead of Saturday's July Cup, the 3kg he put on was well worth it.

Dettori received a 10-day ban at the beginning of June for dropping his hands on Blue Bunting in the English Oaks. He received another nine days on the sidelines for hitting Rewilding too often when bursting the bubble of So You Think at Royal Ascot.

It has allowed him to take a much-needed mid-season break to spend time with his wife, Catherine, and his five children just when most jockeys are flat to the boards in the high summer of the British turf season.

"I've been doing a lot of eating and sunbathing," Dettori said. "I've done a lot of holidaying and spent time with the kids. I came back to work last Saturday ready to go and I've been in this job so long I know how to get ready."

Dettori's customary dismount was on show on his first day back from suspension yesterday when he partnered Gamilati to victory at Newmarket, but that was simply the amuse bouche because the main course is most definitely today. His main mission is to get Delegator across the line before his 15 other rivals.

The July Cup has been sponsored for 16 years by Darley, the breeding operation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. And yet, despite this involvement, Godolphin never have won the 1,200m contest.

In that time they have sent 15 runners to post and the best the Dubai-based operation have achieved is second. Last year, they did not have a runner at all.

This glaring omission for a team who pride themselves on securing the most prestigious races globally is significant. Jokes aside about the July Course being too easy for the Newmarket team to access, the July Cup has produced 25 champion European sprinters in the 34 years that the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings have existed.

It is a race that has proved beyond all the best Australian-trained challengers, with the likes of Scenic Blast, Takeover Target and even the mighty Choisir, all of whom won at Royal Ascot, failing to take home the third British leg of the Global Sprint challenge.

Dettori believes the July Festival to be one of the highlights of his year, and his 23 per cent strike-rate at the course in the past five years is testament to his skill over the undulating track.

He will need all of it, too: Delegator has been drawn widest of all, in stall 17. He is a horse that likes to be covered up, and the extreme post position may make for a trip not to the liking of the five-year-old thoroughbred.

"I'm not too happy about the draw," said Dettori, 40. "If the field decided to race down the stands side then he will be on his own out there. He likes to have some cover and run through horses. He needs top of the ground. He has a devastating turn of foot and he can only use that weapon on firm ground."

If you look at Godolphin's Hall of Fame, precious few sprinters have taken up residence. So Factual won the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes in 1995, while Diktat won the Sprint Cup at Haydock in 1999 on his only try over a sprint distance. That was a different millennium.

Mozart was the last real miler who dropped down in distance to win this for Aidan O'Brien in 2001.

The Danehill colt finished second in the Irish 2,000 Guineas before making his name as a sprinter. But since then it has been the more natural speedballs that have called the tune.

Delegator proved he could tackle 1,200m when he won at his first attempt at the distance on his seasonal debut in the Duke of York Stakes in May.

At York he beat Regal Parade, a sprinter with two Group 1 wins to his name, and it is on the basis of that one run that many consider him to be favourite today.

Delegator has been off the track for 59 days since that performance. During his 14-race career four of his five victories have come off a break of at least 73 days. The colt clearly appreciates the rest. Much like his rider.