Things We Learned » Separate lives

Separate lives

It shouldn’t really have been such a huge surprise when the news filtered through on Sunday that Godolphin and Frankie Dettori had decided to go their separate ways. Easy in hindsight, of course, but the wonder, looking back on it all, given how the season panned out, was that the relationship lasted as long into 2012 as it did.

The drafting of Mickael Barzalona and Silvestre de Sousa to the Godolphin fold at the start of the season really shouldn’t have posed that big a threat to Dettori as the alpha male. It would have been reasonable to assume that Frankie would have ridden all the Godolphin horses that he could, and that the young bucks would divvy up the ones that he couldn’t between them. However, it was apparent from early, from 31st March actually, when Barzalona rode the 20/1 shot Monterosso to win the Dubai World Cup, with Dettori on the 33/1 shot Prince Bishop (and Ahmed Ajtebi on the 11/1 shot Capponi), that things may not pan out exactly like that.

Barzalona rode Kailani and Certify and Encke. And others. He rode Masterstroke in the Arc. It didn’t make sense. Dettori is still one of the best riders in the world, his talent remains undiminished and his big-race experience is invaluable. You wouldn’t expect a fully-fit Wayne Rooney to sit comfortably on the bench and look on as Van Persie started in his place against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. Then Dettori rode Camelot in the Arc and it was really a case of when, not if.

These things often happen for a reason and, while he may not see it now, this could actually be a good thing for Frankie. As well as re-energising him, it will allow him take some of the big-race rides from which his Godolphin retainer excluded him. Agent Ray Cochrane says that he is going to go all-out for the jockeys’ championship this year. That may not come to pass, Dettori may not traverse the country in search of a volume of winners, in search of numbers, but you can be sure that, on big days and in big races, he will be in huge demand.

Also, the fact that two of Godolphin’s five Group 1 winners in Britain and Ireland this season to date have been provided by the Jim Bolger-trained Dawn Approach, and that Godolphin had just three runners on British Champions’ Day last Saturday (they finished eighth of nine, ninth of nine and 26th of 26) tells you that this may not be as big a negative for Dettori as appears to be the case at first glance.

Good year for the raiders

Four Irish-trained winners on British Champions’ Day was an impressive haul, especially given that the four races that Irish-trained horses won were the only four races in which Irish-trained horses were represented on the day.

Just two of the 15 runners in the Sprint were Irish, three of the nine runners in the Long Distance Cup were Irish, and two of the 10 runners in the Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes were Irish, while Excelebration was the only Irish-trained horse in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

The fact that the four Irish winners were trained by three different trainers (Dermot Weld [2], David Nagle and Aidan O’Brien) made the day even more pleasing from an Irish perspective. This aspect of the day was consistent with what has been happening this season in general. There were eight Irish-trained winners at Royal Ascot this year, for example, which equalled the modern-day record of 2008. The difference between this year and 2008 was that, while the eight winners four years ago represented just two trainers (Aidan O’Brien and Jim Bolger), this year they represented six, with O’Brien and Bolger joined by Dermot Weld, David Wachman, David Marnane and Willie Mullins.

Even away from Ascot, Irish horses have performed admirably on British soil this season. As well as Saturday’s double and Princess Highway’s Ribblesdale Stakes win at Royal Ascot, Dermot Weld also had two winners at York’s Ebor meeting in Olympiad and Pale Mimosa. The Jim Bolger-trained pair Dawn Approach and Trading Leather dominated Future Champions’ Day at Newmarket and the David Nagle-trained Maarek won a handicap at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting and the Group 3 Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle before he won on Saturday, while the Tom Hogan-trained Gordon Lord Byron won a listed race at York in August and was a close-up second in the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup in September.

Saddler’s Rock won the Goodwood Cup for John Oxx, Sendmylovetorose won the Cherry Hinton for Andy Oliver, Slade Power and Sole Power completed a listed race double for Eddie Lynam, and subsequent Irish St Leger winner Royal Diamond got to within a neck of landing the Ebor for Tommy Carmody.

And, of course, there has been the small matter of Aidan O’Brien winning four of the five Classics, as well as the Coronation Cup and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, and Camelot getting to within three parts of a length of landing the Triple Crown.

It’s been a good year for the raiders all right. And it could get even better today.

Queens on the way back

King Of Queens put up a nice performance to win the two-mile handicap hurdle at Cork on Sunday. Held up early on by Ruby Walsh, Tom Mullins’s horse made his ground nicely to take it up at the second last flight, and moved on well, ears pricked, to post an impressive victory in a good time, almost bang on standard.

This was just the Dalakhani gelding’s sixth run over hurdles, and it was his first since he returned to the track on the flat at Killarney last month after a three-and-a-half-year break. Despite his absence, he is still only seven, and he could be a decent handicap hurdler now. A 10lb hike brings him up to a mark of 126, which may still under-estimate his ability. He has won on soft ground, but he seemed to appreciate Cork’s good ground on Sunday. He is an interesting runner in the one-and-a-half-mile handicap at Leopardstown today, but he will be even more interesting when he returns to hurdles.

Stable talk

There are some nuggets of information coming from trainers these days in the various stable tours, as is traditional at this time of year as we teeter on the precipice of the new National Hunt season.

David Pipe (ref. Racing Post) said that The Package wasn’t quite right after he ran out of his skin to finish fourth in the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March on his first run since the previous November, so they decided to give the Grand National a miss. He said that David Johnson’s horse should be reaching his prime now as a nine-year-old, that he is in fine form, and that he could start off in the three-and-a-half-mile chase at Cheltenham’s November meeting. Given the record that the Pipe team have at that meeting, he could be worth a second look there. His handicap rating of 139 is 8lb lower than his peak rating.

Noel Meade (ref. At The Races) said that Prima Vista was never really right last season (when he ran just twice) after he had had a wind operation during the summer of 2011 which didn’t seem to go right. The trainer said that the Singspiel gelding is in a much better frame of mind now, and he will be interesting now when he starts to jump fences.

Also, Philip Hobbs (ref. Racing Post) said that Bet365 Gold Cup runner-up Roalco De Farges’s main target this term is the Welsh National. He will probably start off in the Badger Ales Trophy, but he is reportedly a stuffy horse who needs plenty of work, so he will probably come on for his seasonal debut, wherever that is. Given that he has a really nice progressive profile, that he loves soft ground and that his record at Chepstow reads 31021, he should be the first horse on your Welsh National shortlist.

Waaheb wocking

Three days after producing Rite Of Passage to win the Long Distance Cup at Ascot after a break of 17 months, Dermot Weld was at it again in producing Waaheb to win on his debut over hurdles at Fairyhouse on Tuesday.

It was almost 18 months since we had last seen the son of Elusive Quality, when he was beaten a short head by Lovethehigherlaw in the Champion Bumper at the 2011 Punchestown Festival. Impressive in winning all three of his previous bumpers, JP McManus’s gelding didn’t look like a natural jumper over the first three flights, but he warmed to his task nicely, and he will surely improve for the experience. It was good to see him back on a racetrack, and he is a hugely exciting novice hurdler for the season ahead, as evidenced by quotes of as low as 10/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

© The Irish Field, 27th October 2012