Godolphin and Frankie Dettori have launched a major public relations exercise aimed at demonstrating all is well between the team’s three jockeys, and quelling the rumours that had begun to circulate that Dettori was about to announce his retirement.
Simon Crisford, spokesperson for Godolphin, yesterday clarified the riding arrangements the team have now that new jockeys Sylvestre de Sousa and Mickael Barzalona have settled in. He said, “Rides will be split across the board. They will all get equal opportunities and Frankie understands that. We brought in two new, young jockeys and it is obviously important to give them opportunities. For years Frankie was our only retained jockey. We had other people who would regularly ride for us but it was an informal arrangement. These two jockeys are formally retained.”
He went on to explain that his statement in March about there being no pecking order between the three jockeys meant that if any of them proved particularly in tune with an individual horse they would ride whenever possible. That was why Barzalona rides Kailani in the Oaks tomorrow.
Dettori, too, emphasised the importance of the team angle. He said, “I’m a soldier in a team. I do what I’m told. The boss has the power to decide who rides and I’ve been a good soldier for the past 18 years.” Yes Frankie, but there haven’t been any other soldiers in the same army as you.
Dettori’s agent, Ray Cochrane added a further dimension to the team argument, suggesting that Dettori continues to have considerable influence on his rides, though now it’s more to do with where he goes rather than specific horses. He said, “Frankie goes where Frankie wants. You take Monday, a horse we run at Redcar is possibly a lot better than what we’ll run at Leicester, but there’s no point asking Frankie to go to Redcar. He’ll tell me, ‘I’m not driving up and back again to ride something that’s probably going to be fourth.’ He’d rather stay closer to home and his family. So Mickael will ride at Redcar, Frankie will ride at Leicester and people may think, ‘Oh, Mickael’s on the better horses.’ But that’s not what’s happening.”
As for the retirement rumour which was circulating on Twitter, that was as big a surprise to Dettori as to everyone else. He said, “All this talk of retirement and pecking orders is baffling to me and has come out of the blue. I’m quite surprised and you can be quite sure that when I retire it will be decided by me.”
To emphasise the point he said he was keen to ride for at least another five years, during which time he would increase his number of winners for Godolphin from its current 900 plus to more than 1,000. And as Crisford pointed out, that would be ample time for some of Dettori’s vast experience to rub off on Barzalona and de Sousa.
So Godolphin would have us believe that their camp is all peace and harmony. But the very fact that they’ve felt it necessary to come out and explain how they are handling their jockeys suggests to me that there are some turbulent moments ahead for team Godolphin.