Focus on Frankie but the Heavens may open
RACING: PRIX DE L’ARC DE TRIOMPHE:THEY MIGHTN’T win tomorrow’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe but there’s no doubt Frankie Dettori and Camelot will be the central focus right up to the “off” at Longchamp in a story rooted in the sort of emotions everyone can understand.
That may sound odd in a €4 million race renowned as the most prestigious and exclusive in Europe and fought over by billionaires and princes from around the world in an eye-watering game of high-stakes bloodstock poker.
However, as befits his reputation as racing’s most extravagant showman Dettori has changed the usual plot with a flourish.
The superstar Italian has held his tongue throughout 2012 as the French youngster Mikel Barzalona impinged further and further into his long-time role as number one rider to Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin empire. And yet his actions in accepting the ride on Camelot speak volumes.
This after all will be his first ride for racing’s other superpower, Coolmore, since the 2005 St Leger on Scorpion, after which Dettori felt compelled to issue a public apology to the Sheikh for riding the Irish horse at all.
Since even then, diplomatic relations between Dubai and Tipperary were stormy, and even more so subsequently with the sheikh’s decision to avoid purchasing stock by Coolmore stallions, there was a resonance to John Magnier’s joke at the time: “Frankie, we still love you, and we forgive you, because you know not what you do!”
For the notoriously publicity shy Coolmore supremo to come out with such a line indicates how much of an admirer he is of the 41-year-old charismatic Italian and how much he must relish the idea of putting one over his old rival by hiring – temporarily at least – his jockey.
Quite what the sheikh thinks of it all remains unclear. Reportedly Dettori communicated by text he was taking the Camelot ride, a huge move considering the history between the two men and that the Dubai ruler has Masterstroke in the race. Sheikh Mohammed’s memory, and ability to hold a grudge, has been proven down the years so it is hard not to view Dettori’s jump across world bloodstock’s no-man’s-land as a big gamble and also a bold statement regarding his continuing abilities as a big-race rider.
Behind the flash, an in-form Frankie remains the outstanding natural talent of his generation, the one former legends like Piggott and Eddery admire watching the most. Three previous Arc wins testify to his mastery of Longchamp and this will be his 25th consecutive ride in the race. And his enduring popularity all but ensures Camelot will start favourite tomorrow.