FRANKIE DETTORI gave Sheikh Mohammed a precise reminder of just why he has been employed as Godolphin’s stable jockey for almost 20 years by seeing off his wouldbe successor Mickael Barzalona in an outstanding finish for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
It was outlined that Dettori had been allowed to choose Colour Vision over Barzalona’s Opinion Poll by the Sheikh, and what must have proved a tricky decision was borne out in the staying championship with just half a length separating them.
While interference between the pair inside the final furlong would not have been deliberate, it was almost a literal display of fighting his corner as the celebrated Italian gave everything he had.
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Dettori has seen both Barzalona and Silvestre de Sousa parachuted into the Godolphin operation this season and has increasingly found himself usurped by the French starlet, most notably when Barzalona donned the blue silks in the Oaks.
It was De Sousa who set the race up by leading aboard eventual fourth Gulf Of Naples but Dettori positioned Colour Vision (6-1) close behind and seemed to hold the cards in the home straight until Opinion Poll loomed alongside.
Colour Vision, with Mark Johnston last season and recent winner of the Sagaro Stakes, momentarily looked beaten but somehow found an extra ounce of energy as they dived for the line.
Dettori’s joy of a 46th Royal Ascot victory and a fifth in this historic the Group One seemed to be accentuated by the circumstances and the same could be said for trainer Saeed Bin Suroor, for so long a regular on this stage but seemingly marginalised by Opinion Poll’s trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni when new equine talent is allocated.
‘‘This is great, this was my best chance of the week and I had a very difficult decision to make between two great horses, two great warriors – and I finished off the best only by a short margin,’’ said Dettori, after the stewards left the placings unaltered following an inquiry.
‘‘I am delighted for the team and myself as it has been a very hard week, so I’m glad this one came up. Me and Mickael are great friends, but you are by yourself when you are out there and you want to win for yourself. It doesn’t matter who is in the finish as you always try to win.’’ The sun poked between the rain clouds just as Colour Vision returned to the winner’s enclosure to be greeted by the Emirati ruler himself.
Sheikh Mohammed said: ‘‘With the Gold Cup you have a whole year to prepare a horse and come here. When the horses are close together at the finish your blood boils.
‘‘We know how good Frankie is and we have to have more than one jockey for Godolphin.’’ Asked whether he had noticed newspaper articles about the apparent decline of Dettori, he said: ‘‘I don’t care.
I have my own opinions.”