Ever the showman, Frankie Dettori contrived to ride his 3,000th winner in Britain when this rural track was, most unusually, packed out with a crowd of more than 20,000. They had come, in the main, for a post-racing concert by Jess Glynne, described as a “pop sensation” in the racecard, but it was the riding sensation who got the biggest cheer of the night, reaching his landmark in the final race, shortly before Glynne took the stage.
Dettori came here needing two winners from just three rides and his chance seemed to have gone when the only fancied one, Blue Geranium, ran deplorably, being beaten 25 lengths after starting favourite. But reverses like that just slide off the Italian when his confidence is high and, although he was not on the best horse in either of his other races, he won both by being more tactically aware than his rivals.
Faced with small fields and no obvious front-runner, Dettori went straight into the lead in both races and was never headed. Both ended with another jockey bearing down on him at some speed but both times it was he who had judged the pace correctly and the other guy who had left it too late.
It might be 20 years since Dettori was first described as a dangerous man to be getting an unchallenged lead in the early stages of a race. His weighing room colleagues are undoubtedly aware of the fact but it seems there is not always anything they can do about it.
They might have come for the pop but this crowd tuned in very quickly to the momentous occasion unfolding before them, scampering to the winner’s enclosure to greet this high-achieving man, now in his 45th year. When it became clear, in the last 50 yards, that Predilection was going to hold onto his lead and trigger the celebrations, those present roared their approval. Dettori responded with a raised arm that meant his winning margin was just half a length and had evaporated one stride past the line.
Another jockey, faced with the avuncular Derek Thompson, formerly of Channel 4 Racing, might have given a halting interview over the racecourse tannoys, stringing together dutiful thanks to trainers and owners. Dettori, naturally, took the microphone from Thompson and paced the winner’s enclosure as he explained how he felt.
“I’m so proud of everyone for the support and it’s a beautiful touch to do it at Newmarket. I’ve got no more words … ” though of course that wasn’t true.
“I purposely didn’t ride all week because I wanted to do it at Newmarket, this is where I’m from. I came here 30 years ago with a dream. Whoever thought I was going to ride 3,000 winners?
“All my friends are here. It’s not a big meeting, it’s not Royal Ascot, it’s a mundane Friday night with 20,000 people. All my kids are here, I’m emotional.
“It’s a fitting day, to win here and it all came down to the last race, there was a tremendous cheer. It was fabulous, I couldn’t have written it better myself. “
Asked what his next target was, he joked: “3,001 … tomorrow!” Persuaded to give a more serious answer, he nominated the 3,112 career tally notched by Doug Smith, who retired almost half a century ago.
“I’m sixth in the all-time English standings. Doug Smith is a realistic target and if I can be fifth all-time in the 350 years of English racing, it’d be a tremendous achievement for a young fella from Italy.”
He hopes to sustain his career for another five years but concedes that getting to 4,000 winners is “very unlikely”, which is unarguable, considering it has taken him 29 years to get here. Had he maintained the pace of his early career, with more than 200 winners a year, he would long since have passed the career figures set by Lester Piggott and Willie Carson. As it is, he has taken more than a decade longer to reach 3,000 than the jump jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, who had rather more in the way of injuries to contend with.
Dettori’s 3,000th winner was trained, aptly, by John Gosden, the man credited with reviving the jockey’s career two years ago when he had become unfashionable to a degree that is hard, now, to believe. Last year, the pair won the Derby and the Arc together.
“It’s lovely to be here tonight with this huge crowd,” Gosden said. “Just amazing, but would you mind making sure he doesn’t get on stage with Jess. I don’t think she wants him up there … ”
“He’s a fantastic athlete, great horseman, highly intelligent and 99% of the time he behaves himself.
“He’s enjoying it again. He really has the sense of fulfilment again. He went in the wilderness for a bit. As long as he’s happy and well and enjoying it, he’s riding like a young man.”
Courtesy : The Guardian