Frankie Dettori and his main employer, John Gosden, were still in talks over the rider’s position with the stable on Friday evening, amid continuing speculation that the 51-year-old rider’s hugely successful association with the yard could have run its course.
Rumours that Dettori’s seven-year spell as Gosden’s No 1 rider might be over have been circulating since Royal Ascot last week and seemed to be confirmed when the stable booked James Doyle and Robert Havling for its two runners at Newmarket on Saturday.
However, it then emerged that Dettori would meet Gosden and his son, Thady, who shares the licence at Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket, on Friday to discuss future riding plans at the yard.
Dettori rode Inspiral to an impressive victory in last Friday’s Coronation Stakes but also suffered a series of disappointments on Gosden-trained horses at the meeting. He struggled to remove a blindfold from Lord North at the start of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday, losing several lengths in the process, while the trainer was critical of his rides on both Stradivarius and Saga, in the Gold Cup and Britannia Handicap respectively, the following afternoon.
Gosden suggested that Dettori had “overcomplicated” his ride on Stradivarius, who was chasing a record-equalling fourth success in the Royal meeting’s showpiece event.
He also told reporters on Friday that the Queen’s colt Saga, who was beaten by a fast-diminishing head after Dettori was forced to wait for running room inside the final quarter-mile, “should have won” the next race on the card, 35 minutes before Dettori could finish only second on Reach For The Moon, also owned by the Queen, when long odds-on for the Hampton Court Stakes.
Dettori flew straight to Sardinia – his family home – for a short holiday after riding on the final afternoon at Royal Ascot on Saturday. Ralph Beckett’s Lezoo, one of the favourites for the Empress Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, will be his first ride since returning to Britain on Thursday morning.
Dettori’s link-up with the Gosden stable from the start of the 2015 season marked the start of an immensely successful Indian summer in his career. It followed a high-profile split with Godolphin in the autumn of 2012 after nearly 20 years as the operation’s No 1 rider, and a six-month ban for testing positive for cocaine which ended in June 2013.
Dettori won his second Derby aboard Gosden’s Golden Horn in June 2015 and produced an inspired ride to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the same horse four months later. He also struck up a hugely popular partnership with the exceptional filly Enable, winning 11 Group One or Grade One races including the Oaks, two Arcs and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
James Doyle was backed from 7-1 to 9-2 with Paddy Power earlier this week to replace Dettori as the Gosdens’ No 1 rider. Hollie Doyle – who is no relation – is the firm’s favourite for the role, having ridden their filly Nashwa to victory in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) last weekend.
Aidan O’Brien’s decision to rely on Tuesday, the Oaks winner, in Saturday’s Irish Derby at the Curragh adds considerable interest to a Classic which has not been won by a filly since 1994, when Balanchine and Dettori gave the emergent Goldolphin operation their first Classic success.
Just two fillies have run in the Irish Derby this century and both finished well beaten, but Tuesday already looks like an above-average Oaks winner and her Epsom form was boosted by the victory of Nashwa, the third filly home, in last weekend’s French Oaks.
Whether the Oaks form is strong enough to justify her status as the narrow favourite on Saturday is a different question, however, as Westover (3.45) would have finished a solid second behind Desert Crown with a clear run in the Derby the following afternoon.
That performance puts him a couple of pounds in front of Tuesday on Timeform’s ratings, even with the filly’s 3lb allowance taken into account, and Ralph Beckett’s colt has as much scope for progress as the favourite with just five runs under his girth. At around 7-4, he is a very fair price to emulate Hurricane Lane, last year’s Derby third, and claim a Classic victory on the Curragh.
Newcastle 1.50: Strike Red ran his best race of the season when a close third at Hamilton earlier this month and is 2-2 over this track and trip.
Newmarket 2.05: All eyes will be on Lezoo, Dettori’s only ride on the card, and she is a decent price at around 5-1 to build on her promising debut victory at Bath earlier this month.
Newcastle 2.25: Glen Shiel looks overpriced at around 6-1 to improve his excellent record over this course and distance.
Newmarket 2.40: Universal Order looked to be getting back to his best form last time and could be the pick of a tightly-handicapped bunch.
Newcastle 2.55: Ravens Ark has yet to run at this trip but looked as though it should be within reach at Goodwood last time and is reunited with Tom Marquand, who was aboard for his win at Lingfield in May.
Newmarket 3.15: Laneqash was making his seasonal debut when just behind Pogo last time and Roger Varian’s gelding should reverse the form here.
Newcastle 3.30: The step up to two miles saw Valley Forge return to the winner’s enclosure for the first time since his win in the Melrose at York last summer and Andrew Balding’s lightly-raced four-year-old looks sure to go close off a 4lb higher mark.