Wednesday 16 October 2019

Dettori feels nerves before shot at immortality

Frankie Dettori. Photo: Getty Images
Frankie Dettori. Photo: Getty Images

Graham Clark

Frankie Dettori has been associated with countless iconic moments throughout his long and illustrious career, but even he is feeling the nerves as Enable stands on the brink of history in Paris tomorrow.

No horse has ever won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe three times, and the popular Italian will attempt to break another record by steering John Gosden's star to glory.

Treve apart, not since the days of Dancing Brave - appropriately in the same colours of owner Khalid Abdullah - has the European middle-distance championship commanded such attention.

Already six times the winning Arc rider, the veteran said of the build-up: "It's been a circus, but quite rightly so, because she is trying to do what has never been done before and scale a mountain that has not been scaled before.

"This, in racing terms, would be as big as Steve Redgrave claiming five Olympic gold medals," the rider reasons.

"There has been a media frenzy all over the world, because it is the biggest race. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous - of course I'm nervous.

"I get nervous the night before, and I get quite obnoxious, so my family kind of run away from me. But it is part and parcel of riding the favourite in the Arc."

Having established themselves as Flat racing's most formidable partnership over the past three seasons, Dettori is fully aware emotions may get the better of him - like they did after the Yorkshire Oaks - if this is their last race together.

"I love horses, because it's part of my job, but she has taken me to places no other horses have, emotionally," he says. "We have been around the world and conquered the best races in Europe, so of course I'm attached to her - and I love her."

No one could have predicted the heights Enable would reach following a low-key debut success at Newcastle in November 2016 - not least Dettori, who rates one of her most recent triumphs as particularly special. "I thought what she achieved the first year was remarkable - winning three Oaks, a King George and an Arc," he says.

"Then she came back and won another Arc and a Breeders' Cup, then this year an Eclipse and another King George and Yorkshire Oaks, which is just unheard of.

"This year's King George is the one that stands out. It is the hardest race I've been involved in all of my career, but it was worth it. She showed the world that day that not only is she good, but that she has guts."

Although Enable has become an ultimate champion on the track, her attitude towards work on the gallops in Newmarket still leaves Dettori slightly perplexed.

"You go there in the morning with high hopes and expectations of sitting on the Arc winner and that she is going to pull me out of the saddle and go 20 lengths clear, but I get fooled every time.

"She pulls the wool over my eyes and works satisfactory every time, but I guess that is why she is so good - she saves her best for the track."

Although Dettori, 48, may have lost some of his youthful exuberance of 20 years ago, what he has gained is a racing brain that remains arguably the best in the business and one he will have to engage and call upon more than ever at the weekend.

"I'm not physically as good as I was at 25, but I guess what I have lost in my physique I've gained in experience - and I'm enjoying it a lot more," he reflects.

This Arc promises to be Enable's hardest yet, and Dettori is wary of one rival from Ballydoyle in particular. "Everybody is going to turn up, and it will be hard fought, so it's really fingers crossed," he says.

"I fear Japan, because he is a Juddmonte (International) winner that is also a three-year-old, so he will get weight from us.

"The Arc is really all about her, though. It would put the icing on the cake of her career and make her an immortal horse of our generation if it happens."

Irish Independent

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