Godolphin Derby hopes dashed in Dante

Frankie Dettori must have been surprised to find himself left in the weighing room for York’s Derby trial, the Dante Stakes, yesterday. Whilst he might have felt rather alone for fifteen minutes each side of 2.30, many racing fans will have shared his surprise that he was not riding Mandaean for the Godolphin team.

Dettori is, after all, the number 1 jockey for Godolphin. Of course, had the horse won under 20 year old Mickael Barzalona, probably nobody would have batted an eyelid. But he trailed in last but one of the seven runners, and fully 24 lengths behind the winner, Bonfire.

Before the race, Mandaean had been third in the betting for the Derby, as low as 12/1. Afterwards, you were left wondering whether he would turn up at Epsom. Not surprisingly, his price drifted hugely. Bet365 hold him at 33/1, Skybet at 66/1 and he’s double that price on Betfair.

The poor showing clearly came as a surprise to trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni, who had said before the race, “Mandaean is doing well and coming to hand nicely. The trip will be fine for him and I expect the ground to be no problem. His main aim for the first half of the season has always been the Derby and he has the class to go close.”

Well, that doesn’t look to be the case any more. What went wrong? Mandaean was having his first run for Al Zarooni, so perhaps the trainer simply hadn’t read the horse correctly. Mandaean had only run twice before, and was wandering around in the heavy ground when winning the Grand Criterium last November. Barzalona had to hold on to him early on, but he was the first horse beaten yesterday. Perhaps his inexperience was still showing through.

But that still leaves the question of why Frankie didn’t get the ride. York isn’t the most straightforward track to ride, and Barzalona had only ridden there twice before. You couldn’t say he rode a bad race, or was caught out in any way, but I reckon Dettori might have done things differently. We’ll never know – he’s far too professional to say anything, but the result is that Godolphin’s main hope for the Derby is now out with the washing.

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