True to their word, Godolphin have spread their rides at Royal Ascot this week between their three jockeys, Mickael Barzalona, Frankie Dettori and Silvestre de Sousa. As far as confirmed runners go over the five days, Barzalona has nine rides; the other two have five each. But you don’t have to look beyond the opening Queen Anne Stakes to see the change that is taking place.
In any of the last 15 years you would have seen Frankie Dettori on board the Godolphin horse. This year their entry, Helmet, has Barzalona on board, with Dettori riding Worthadd for Sir Mark Prescott. The widespread belief that Barzalona would have two or three seasons as understudy, honing his lines and timing from the master, looks to have been shot down. There could hardly be a more public statement of which Godolphin sees as their principal ride than this.
It hardly matters that both Helmet and Worthadd have as much chance of winning as a single candle has of floodlighting Wembley; the jockey on the racecard is Barzalona.
But this season the big question for Godolphin is not who should be wearing the royal blue silks, but where are the quality horses? They had no runner in the Derby, and they have no 3-year-old considered good enough to take its place in the biggest St James’s Palace Stakes for many a year.
Look at their 11 horses in the races at Ascot that have been priced up. You have to go to Thursday and the Gold Cup to find one shorter than 10/1. Opinion Poll (9/2) and Colour Vision (5/1) fly the Godolphin flag here, and fairly do represent the team’s best chance of a Group 1 success this week. But even then, they’ll have to beat Fame and Glory, who could well be a third odds-on favourite for one of the top prizes.
Ironically then, it may work to Dettori’s benefit that he is not called on to ride the majority of Godolphin’s horses. Wouldn’t it be great to see him have another great week at Ascot, where he’s so often provided such memorable moments over the past couple of decades?