By Nicholas Godfrey
Saudi Arabia: The world’s most famous jockey has secured a ride in the world’s richest race.
Frankie Dettori has been booked to ride last year’s Dubai World Cup runner-up Gronkowski in the $20 million Saudi Cup in Riyadh on February 29.
Dettori will maintain the association with the five-year-old four weeks later in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan, where he was touched off last year by Thunder Snow in a thrilling finish.
Dettori, who took part in a trial of the new turf track at King Abdulaziz racecourse, has also been booked to ride Dark Power for Bahrain’s champion trainer Allan Smith in the $1m 1351 Turf Sprint on the Saudi Cup undercard. He also heads the cast list for a special male v female jockeys’ challenge at the Riyadh venue on the eve of the big race.
Carrying the Phoenix Thoroughbreds colours, Gronkowski has run twice at the Dubai World Cup Carnival this season, finishing third behind Saudi possible Benbatl on his most recent outing in Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge. He is trained by Salem Bin Ghadayer, who is also planning to run stablemate Capezzano in the Saudi Cup.
Dettori’s agent Ray Cochrane confirmed the news of the Gronkowski booking, saying: “It’s a hell of a good ride to get and we’re delighted to get him. The agreement is he’ll be riding him in the Dubai World Cup as well.”
Dark Power, Dettori’s mount in the turf sprint, won four races in Britain for former trainer Clive Cox before joining Allan Smith in Bahrain. He represents Sheikh Isa’s Al Adiyat Racing.
“Last year he broke the track record here over six furlongs and two weeks later broke the track record over five,” reported Smith.
“He loves a fast pace and likes to come off of it,” he went on. “He won quite nicely first time up this season then last time he finished second but it was just a slowly run race and they just speeded up last three furlongs which didn’t suit him. He likes to sort of grind them down.
“When I first got him, I always thought he’d make into a 1,400-metre horse so I’m thinking the extended 6½ furlongs will suit him. The only thing we’d dearly love is a fast pace – if we get that, then we’ve got a shot.”
In other Saudi news, Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Shancelot has been ruled out of the Saudia Sprint with what is described as a minor setback. Trainer Jorge Navarro told the Daily Racing Form the four-year-old may yet make the Dubai Golden Shaheen on the World Cup undercard.