By Jon Lees
GB: Ed Walker said it would be “a sin” to leave Frankie Dettori in the weighing room as he expanded on the decision to take regular partner Tom Marquand off Investec Derby favourite English King.
Marquand has ridden English King to both the colt’s victories, including an impressive success in the Lingfield Derby Trial, but will make way for the vastly experienced Dettori in the Epsom Classic on July 4.
Dettori spent the morning in Lambourn on Wednesday getting to know Bjorn Nielsen’s colt for the first time. He spent more than an hour on English King, riding him in a piece of work then back to the stables – and he liked what he found, according to Walker.
“He worked very well this morning,” said Walker, speaking at an Investec Derby media preview. “Frankie came in and had a sit on him and everything went smoothly. He loved the horse.
“I wasn’t really nervous about this piece of work. He’s not a horse you expect to see blast clear of his lead horse in Frankel-Bullet Train style. He does what he has to do, so I was most nervous he might not impress Frankie.
“Frankie wanted to come down and get a feel for the horse. He rode him from the stable back to his stable, which is quite rare. He really wanted to get inside the horse’s head, which is a mark of his professionalism. He rode him for well over an hour.
“He loved the way he moves; he is an exceptionally athletic horse. He loves his personality, he is playful, and the way he switches off. I was expecting to hear all those things but he has got that Montjeu twinkle in his eye. He was very positive.”
Walker and Nielsen offered the mount on English King to 49-year-old Dettori, regular partner of the owner’s triple Gold Cup winner Stradivarius, after learning he would have no ride for John Gosden at Epsom.
Marquand, 22, is tipped to be a future champion jockey and this year rode his first G1 winner in Australia. Last week he celebrated his first success at Royal Ascot.
“I hold Tom in the highest regard as a potential star of our sport,” Walker said. “It was not an easy decision.
“But if you look at the stats it was an easy decision,” the trainer added. “Tom had ridden five winners around Epsom, not one over a mile and a half and never ridden in an Epsom Classic. Frankie’s were five Oaks, two Derbys, five Coronation Cups. He has a wealth of experience.
“But it was a very difficult decision from the point of view that Tom is a great talent. I didn’t want to break any relationship we had. He’s done absolutely nothing wrong on the horse, rode him beautifully to victory twice and had an enormous faith and belief in the horse.
“Ultimately Bjorn has been trying to win this race 30-plus years, grew up in Epsom, been dreaming of winning the Derby all his life pretty much, as have I.
“We’ve got to give ourselves the best possible chance. We all know Frankie raises his game substantially on the big stage and is the coolest under pressure, pushes his chest out under pressure.
“It’s my first runner in a Derby. We are favourite. Its high-pressure stuff. It’s a massive race for horse and jockey. It’s a very difficult race to win. It’s very technical and Frankie has experience of all of that. He knows what to expect and Tom doesn’t.
“It’s not a reflection on Tom. It’s an experience thing. Frankie is Frankie and in my opinion it would be a sin to leave him in the weighing room on a day like that.”