Dettori returns to Kerry for four rides at Killarney Festival

Italian jockey set to bid for fifth Irish Oaks on Star Catcher this Saturday

Frankie Dettori: colourful Italian jockey will prove a major draw to racing fans  when he appears at Killarney. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Frankie Dettori: colourful Italian jockey will prove a major draw to racing fans when he appears at Killarney. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Frankie Dettori starts his midsummer Irish sojourn in Killarney on Wednesday evening and it could culminate in the Italian superstar riding a tenth Curragh classic winner this Saturday.

As expected, the Royal Ascot winner Star Catcher has been supplemented into the €400,000 Kerrygold Irish Oaks and quickly been made as low as 9-2 third-favourite in some lists.  

Ranged against her are the massed ranks of Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team which has half a dozen of the 13 entries left in the race after Tuesday’s forfeit stage. They include Pink Dogwood and Fleeting, second and third respectively to the Dettori-ridden Anapurna at Epsom at the end of May.

O’Brien’s son, Joseph, plays another major local card, the Pretty Polly heroine, Iridessa, in a race which has been won by overseas horses eight times in the last decade.

This time, as well as Star Catcher, the cross-channel challenge is likely to include at least one of Ralph Beckett’s ‘de Vega’ team.

“We’ve left in Antonia de Vega and Manuela de Vega [fourth at Epsom] and we’ll just keep an eye on the ground for Antonia. I would say at this stage Manuela is a probable runner,” said Beckett.

Inevitably though, most focus will fall on Dettori as he bids to maintain a Group One summer which has seen him add half a dozen more top-flight prizes to his stellar CV since Anapurna won at Epsom.    

Dettori has won the Irish Oaks four times before, including on Enable in 2017, and has landed five other classic victories at the Curragh.

A headline-grabbing success by racing’s most recognisable figure would be a timely boost to Irish racing’s beleaguered €81 million HQ which has been beset by problems since its opening in May.

The Curragh and Leopardstown have been regular Dettori stomping grounds in Ireland over the years but Killarney will be a new experience for the famously flamboyant jockey.

It isn’t his first trip to Kerry though, having attracted a near 6,000-strong crowd to the now defunct Tralee track 21 years ago.

Pulling power

That his public pulling power might be even greater now testifies to the longevity of a career that at one point looked on its last legs as the great showman struggled to re-establish himself after a six-month cocaine ban ended in 2013.

A trio of Arc wins spread between Golden Horn and Enable have been the highlights of Dettori’s subsequent Indian summer and the Killarney executive have banked on his pulling power.

Not since Lester Piggott was attracted to the picturesque course in 1991 – and won on three of his five rides – has a Killarney racing visitor been so anticipated.

Dettori has four rides on a card that last year saw the subsequent Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck break his maiden in the first race.

Time Tunnel in Enable’s Juddmonte colours will be Dettori’s first spin in the second event although she possibly hasn’t been done any favours with a high draw.

Dermot Weld also supplies Mujid, a course and distance winner in May, while Lady Wannabe will be the star attraction’s mount in the featured Cairn Rouge Stakes. All the Dettori magic may be needed for her to reverse Curragh form from May with Viadera.

In 1998 Dettori left it until last to ride a winner at Tralee and a similar ‘flying dismount’ outcome would be popular since he teams up with his great friend Johnny Murtagh for Finding Nero in a handicap due off at 8.30.

Fairyhouse is Wednesday evening’s other fixture and the Epsom Derby winning jockey Seamus Heffernan will be on duty there for Ballydoyle.

Royal Dornoch failed to fire on his debut when a lot better was expected so is worth examining in the first juvenile maiden.

Plenty went wrong for Eminence in Royal Ascot’s King George V Handicap where he finished third. The son of Sea The Stars drops back to ten furlongs for the finale but should still be hard to beat.

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