Frankie Dettori described winning on his first two comeback rides from a broken ankle at Lingfield as a “fairytale” as he gears up for what promises to be another momentous year.
Back months ahead of the initial prognosis from the accident at Nottingham on 2 October which ruled Dettori out of the winning Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe ride on Treve, his talent appeared undiminished as he first galvanised Eco Warrior home and then completed a double on Gone With The Wind. There was to be no hat-trick, though, with his third and final ride, Exemplary, well-beaten.
As always, the 43-year-old added his showmanship to proceedings, signing autographs and spraying young participants of the Racing To School initiative with champagne on the podium after his first winner.
“I’m knackered,” he said with a smile as he returned to Eco Warrior’s trainer, John Hills, having made nearly all the running over a mile and a half and pushing the 8-1 shot a neck in front of 10-11 favourite Wilhana.
“It’s silly but I was nervous this morning,” added Dettori. “As much as I would be riding in a big race. You’re hoping your legs hold up, and your fitness. I’m probably back about a week or ten days before I’d planned but some good horses are coming up now so I had to speed up my routine.
“I’ve got a mechanical horse and I’ve got no pain, it’s just trying to get my strength back and there’s nothing like race-riding. He tested me big time as he was very lazy, but it’s been a fairytale comeback. I thought the favourite was going to get me, but he had a bit left.
“When we went across the line, my lungs and my thighs were burning but that’s just fitness, it will come. Thank you to my surgeon, Mr Robinson, for screwing me back together and to everyone for putting up with me for the last three months. Originally they said six to nine months but I’m back in three and a half. I’ll keep myself busy, it’s the mental awareness of racing, that’s what you have to sharpen up.”
As well as his ankle issue, Dettori famously served a six-month ban for being found guilty of taking a prohibited substance last year. Understandably, he is pleased to be leaving that behind and now has a fabulous range of horses to ride, including Treve, in his role as retained jockey to Qatari Sheikh Joaan Al Thani.
Dettori was jetting off to Dubai after racing to link up with the owner’s Mshawish at Meydan.
“I was away for New Year and I told my family to throw the diary of 2013 in the bin, I don’t want to remember any of it,” said Dettori. “I was at a disadvantage last season as I started halfway through and I was chasing my tail. This year I can start at the same time as the rest and enjoy it better. I can pace myself. This year is a completely different story. I never thought I’d be back in January but I’ve got a lot to look forward to. I’ll be riding a bit in Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and then the French season starts earlier than England.
“The boss has around 70 in France and 70 in England, so I’ll be spending time between the two countries and that will be fun. I’ve said to Ray [Cochrane, his agent] that I don’t want to be champion jockey, I don’t want to ride every day, I don’t need to, I’ve nothing to prove. I’ll try to be selective and ride horses that have a chance. Treve is the highest-rated horse in training, but those kinds of memories are miles away.”
When news of Dettori’s return emerged last week, he had been inked in beside the name of Jeremy Noseda’s Gone With The Wind in the 32Red.com Maiden Stakes.
Wearing the Paul and Susan Roy colours he sported in Classic victory on Sixties Icon in the St Leger, Dettori once more had to work hard as Android challenged up the rail but prevailed by the same margin of a neck as the 7-4 favourite.
1.00 Carn Rock
2.00 Landenstown Pearl
3.00 Earth Amber
3.30 Cruising Bye
4.00 Lilac Belle
1.10 Abi Scarlet
1.40 Precariously Good (nap)
2.10 Sir Geoffrey
2.40 Aqua Ardens
3.10 Slinky Mcvelvet
1.50 My Boy Paddy
2.20 Time To Think
2.50 Dreams Of Milan
3.20 Persian Snow
3.50 Little Legend
4.20 Surging Seas
4.30 Fearless Lad
5.00 Salford Prince
6.30 Leitrim Pass
7.00 Lexi’s Hero
7.30 Spray Tan
8.00 Parisian Pyramid