Dettori and Ballydoyle: the start of a fruitful relationship?

An email to the Racing Post this week posed the question: “Will Camelot now win the ‘Arc by default, it’s the only way I can see him winning?”

The contributor was, of course, referring to the fact that three of the major contenders will miss tomorrow’s spectacular in Paris, namely Snow Fairy, Nathaniel and last year’s hero, Danedream.

More regarding Camelot’s prospects in a little while, but firstly the stunning booking of Frankie Dettori for the son of Montjeu.

This was a real thunderbolt, because when Dettori won the St Leger at Doncaster aboard Scorpion for Ballydoyle-Coolmore in 2005 — the last occasion he rode a horse for the organisation — it went down like a lead balloon with Sheikh Mohammed.

Open warfare has long been the norm between the Sheikh and Coolmore, although there has been some softening in the relationship of late.

Does the fact that Dettori will now ride Camelot in the ‘Arc indicate a further softening, or is there more to it than that? For much of his career Dettori has been the blue-eyed boy as far as Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin were concerned, but that certainly appears to be no longer the situation.

Dettori remains a vital part of the team, but the emergence of Mickael Barzalona has seen Dettori play a less prominent role.

It cannot sit well with Dettori and is hard to understand. All the available evidence indicates the Italian remains as good as he has ever been and one only had to watch his masterful display on Snow Fairy in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown recently to very much realise that is the case.

Godolphin has been struggling for years to match the power of Coolmore and, as a result, Dettori has found it increasingly difficult to get on the best horses.

This season, for instance, outside of Snow Fairy’s success at Leopardstown, he has managed only one other major win and that was on Colour Vision in the Ascot Gold Cup.

Godolpin produced the largely unheralded Encke to beat Camelot in the St Leger at Doncaster last month, but Barzalona was in the plate.

Dettori had to be satisfied with a rear view of the big two, partnering John Gosden’s Michelangelo to finish third.

On December 15, Dettori will celebrate his 42nd birthday, by no means old for a flat jockey. He has a lot of life left in him, but surely won’t want to end his career scrapping with Barzalona, and also Silvestre de Sousa, for rides from Godolphin.

And that’s why we must ask is there more to this booking than just a once-off arrangement between Dettori and Ballydoyle?

I am reliably informed that one major Ballydoyle-Coolmore player is in favour of approaching Dettori to ride as their number one next season.

Joseph O’Brien has essentially done a good job this campaign, there is simply no arguing with that. But he remains a work in progress, continues to be dogged by weight problems and they are not going to get any better.

The fact that both Seamie Heffernan and Colm O’Donoghue have been overlooked for Camelot at Longchamp tells us all we need to know about their standing at Ballydoyle.

They are clearly highly regarded, and have been entrusted with many high profile rides in the past, but are never going to get the number one job.

Ballydoyle has nearly always employed a jockey with the X-Factor — Kinane, Murtagh and Fallon. Dettori would, of course, be the ultimate appointment.

It would be the perfect end to his career and surely offer him a number of chances to add to his sole Epsom Derby win on Authorized.

Travelling back and forth from Britain would not be a problem, the likes of Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty have shown how that can work perfectly satisfactorily.

Back to whether Camelot can actually win this ‘Arc or not. The booking of Dettori is obviously a massive plus. He has a fantastic temperament, is a quite brilliant jockey and rarely if ever gets it wrong on the big day. I believe, for a good while now, there was no doubt about Camelot turning up for this race and those who know what’s going on at Ballydoyle started backing the horse as far back as last Sunday.

If Dettori can guide Camelot to victory then it will be a huge story and strengthen the hand of the Ballydoyle insider who is anxious that he should ride for them on a permanent basis.

But that is for another day. Camelot will face a much easier task than was initially envisaged, but if delivering will still go a long way towards justifying the hype that has surrounded him from the first day he set foot on a racecourse.

It will be terrific for Irish racing, and especially for Aidan O’Brien, if it happens. Good luck to all concerned, but those of us who live and die by the form book remain unconvinced.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox