x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Frankie Dettori’s first conquest of season could be Battle Of Marengo

Regular jockey for the Al Asayl stable horse will be replaced by the veteran who is in search for his first winner this season after the drug ban.

If Tadhg O’Shea, the regular jockey of Battle of Marengo, is to be believed the horse goes fast on the Meydan track, something that Frankie Dettori, above, will be hoping for in a winner this season. Pawan Singh / The National
If Tadhg O’Shea, the regular jockey of Battle of Marengo, is to be believed the horse goes fast on the Meydan track, something that Frankie Dettori, above, will be hoping for in a winner this season. Pawan Singh / The National

As Cyrano de Bergerac lies in the throes of death in the 1990 eponymous film he mutters that, “While I was below in the shadows, others climbed up to kiss the sweet rose.”

In the same vein spare a thought for Tadgh O’Shea tonight as the reigning UAE champion jockey watches from some dark recess of Meydan Racecourse Frankie Dettori get lifted into the limelight aboard Battle Of Marengo.

By rights the ride on Battle Of Marengo in tonight’s US$250,000 (Dh918,250) Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 should be O’Shea’s, rather than that of the UAE’s prodigal son.

O’Shea rode 32 winners last season for his third jockeys’ championship, and is going great guns towards defending that title, having accumulated 25 winners this season.

He often gets up at 3am in the morning at his Dubai home and drives to Al Asayl, where he does ride work as the stable jockey to Ernst Oertel, Battle Of Marengo’s handler and the UAE champion trainer.

This is the rough and tumble of international racing though, and the choice of Dettori makes Battle Of Marengo’s challenge in the feature race an international event – the world will be watching.

Al Asayl have had huge success recently under Oertel’s guidance in combination with the tiller hand of Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan.

A Dubai World Cup win, however, has remained elusive and in the summer the scouts were sent across the world to deliver a horse that could hand Abu Dhabi its first victory in the world’s most valuable thoroughbred race.

Battle Of Marengo has not been seen on a racetrack since he raced too keenly in first-time blinkers to finish seventh in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp, Paris, in July.

According to Oertel, he arrived a little lean from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle operation but has bulked up since and is ready to face his 15 rivals.

“Whatever he does on Thursday he will improve mentally,” O’Shea said. “Ernst has brought him to Meydan every week to have his gallop. He does all his slow work at home and all his fast work at Meydan. Battle Of Marengo is very well and he floats over the surface in the mornings.”

For Dettori it is a chance to finally lay to rest the ghosts of his season past; an annus horribilis which resulted in a ban, a nasty ankle injury and heavy criticism of his hunger for rides.

He is still the leading jockey at Meydan for his long-standing association with Godolphin and although he has yet to ride a winner there this season he is laying the ground work for a stellar World Cup night.

Like his mount, Dettori will keep on improving with races having come back last month from his injury that was supposed to rule him out until the early summer.

“Originally the doctor said between six and nine months,” Dettori said of his ankle that will prevent him from performing a flying dismount if he wins tonight.

“I have no pain but it is about gathering the strength back and it is your mental awareness of racing that you need to sharpen up.

“I was away for New Year, but I told somebody in my house to throw the 2013 diary in the bin as I didn’t want to remember any of it.”

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