St Leger pun­ters bank­ing on Det­tori

Pop­u­lar jockey sparks plunge on Coronet Gos­den-trained filly was sur­prise choice of rider

The Guardian - Sport - - Racing - Greg Wood Don­caster

He is the 44th-most suc­cess­ful rider in Bri­tain this year and has not claimed the jock­eys’ ti­tle since 2004, but there is still no one in the weigh­ing room who can shift a mar­ket quite like Frankie Det­tori.

Coronet, his sur­prise choice as a part­ner in today’s St Leger, has been the only horse for money since the fi­nal field ap­peared with Det­tori’s name against hers. She was a 10-1 chance a few min­utes be­fore the list of 11 run­ners ap­peared, but as short as 11-2 last night. It re­mains un­likely that Coronet will set off as the favourite on Town Moor, but when the na­tion’s pun­ters, in­clud­ing 30,000 at the track, sud­denly latch on to Frankie, any­thing is pos­si­ble.

If Coronet comes home in front today, the Det­tori leg­end will get an­other buff-and-pol­ish. Coronet’s back­ers will con­grat­u­late them­selves for trust­ing their money to Det­tori’s judg­ment, and every­one else will kick them­selves for ig­nor­ing such an ob­vi­ous tip. You do not need too long a mem­ory, though, to re­mem­ber the last time a sta­ble jockey had a dif­fi­cult choice in the St Leger, and how it turned out.

Ryan Moore cer­tainly does. Nine years ago, in his first year as sta­ble jockey to Sir Michael Stoute and at a time when he was still in search of his first win in a Bri­tish Clas­sic, Moore had the choice of rid­ing ei­ther Doc­tor Fre­man­tle or Con­duit in the St Leger. He went for Doc­tor Fre­man­tle and fin­ished eighth be­hind his sta­ble com­pan­ion. The lucky jockey who picked up the spare ride on Con­duit was Det­tori.

That was the last of Det­tori’s five St Leger vic­to­ries to date, only one of which, oddly, came in the royal blue colours of the Godol­phin op­er­a­tion, which re­tained him as its No1 jockey for nearly two decades. Most mem­o­rably, per­haps, if only for its nov­elty value, he also landed the Clas­sic in the colours of John Mag­nier, Godol­phin’s arch-ri­val on the track and in the sales ring, aboard Scor­pion in 2005. And it is a jockey who spends most of his time in Godol­phin colours, James Doyle, who could do to Det­tori today what Det­tori did to Moore back in 2008.

Many pun­ters as­sume that de­ci­sions like these must be 80-20 or 90-10 when, in all like­li­hood, it is closer to 51-49, though Det­tori said yes­ter­day that it had been an “ob­vi­ous” choice. His thought process, he said, had been that Coronet “is strong and has been racing in Group Ones for most of the year” and could be bet­ter suited to the ex­pected good-to-soft ground.

“[Doyle’s mount] Stradi­var­ius has won over two miles,” Det­tori added, “but all his best form is on top of the ground. There are show­ers forecast and it’s not go­ing to re­ally dry out, so Coronet was my ob­vi­ous choice. It was very hard, though, and I left it un­til the last minute. Half the field can win it, prob­a­bly even more.”

There were grey clouds over Town Moor for most of the af­ter­noon yes­ter­day, but the rain stayed away and the out­stand­ing Don­caster turf, which drains as well as any track in the coun­try, could eas­ily be closer to good by 3.35 this af­ter­noon.

The ac­cu­racy, or other­wise, of Det­tori’s judg­ment is the ob­vi­ous sub­plot in the Leger field, but far from the only one. The track it­self will be keep­ing a ner­vous eye on the crowd fig­ure af­ter a 13% drop in the at­ten­dance 12 months ago, from 30,022 to 26,171, while Stoute will sad­dle Crys­tal Ocean, the likely favourite, in the hope of win­ning his first Bri­tish Clas­sic since Work­force took the Derby in 2010.

It would also be Stoute’s 16th Bri­tish Clas­sic since Fair Salinia took the Oaks in 1978, but even if the 71-year-old Stoute lands the Leger, he will not be the old­est trainer to send out a win­ner here this week af­ter David Elsworth, 78 in De­cem­ber, took the Don­caster Cup with Desert Sky­line. Elsworth is al­ready one of just a hand­ful of train­ers to have won the Grand Na­tional and the Chel­tenham Gold Cup over jumps as well as Clas­sics and Group One races on the Flat, and he will aim to join an even more ex­clu­sive club next sum­mer by adding As­cot’s Gold Cup to the list.

Desert Sky­line, the only three­year-old in the field, needed plenty of en­cour­age­ment from Sil­vestre de Sousa to go through the gears, but he even­tu­ally stayed on with real pur­pose to win by a

Frankie Det­tori may not have won the jock­eys’ ti­tle since 2004 but no other jockey has as much in­flu­ence on the bet­ting mar­kets

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