With their differences said to have been ironed out and thus the commitment of trainers John and Thady Gosden restored, many fans and pundits of the sport tipped Hall of Fame jockey Frankie Dettori to finish the calendar year strong.
Therefore, you could imagine the shock when the Gosdens notified racing media last week that Dettori’s fellow countryman Andrea Atzeni would be replacing him aboard Stradvarius in the upcoming Goodwood Cup. The news could very well impact those looking to have a bet on the race also, with the change leaving punters unsure as to whether it will shorten or lengthen the Goodwood betting odds heading into the race.
The frosty pivot in their relationship began during this year’s Royal Ascot campaign, where Dettori came up short in several high-profile fixtures. His ride atop Stradivarius in the Gold Cup was a particularly subpar performance compared to what we are accustomed to from the Italian – ultimately drawing the ire of his trainers in very public fashion.
While both parties were said to have mutually agreed to partake in a “sabbatical” post the Royal meeting, Dettori and the Gosdens began working together again just a few weeks later after he was appointed to ride Mighty Ulysses and Inspiral at Newmarket in early July.
The meeting proved to be a mixed bag for Dettori, as his strong win with Mighty Ulysses on the first day was arguably overshadowed by his loss to rank outsider Prosperous Voyage while aboard Inspiral. In hindsight, that defeat at Newmarket could have very well been the straw that broke the camel’s back – and given the cutthroat nature of the Gosdens’ decision to replace Dettori, it will be interesting to see if their relationship is at all salvageable.
When speaking on the development, Stradivarius’ owner Bjorn Nielsen remained diplomatic in his statement.
“Frankie Dettori, who has enjoyed a great relationship with Stradivarius and ridden him to many brilliant stakes victories – more than he has any other horse – will by mutual agreement give up the ride to Andrea Atzeni in the Goodwood Cup,” Nielsen said.
“Frankie remains not only ‘the Strad’s’ biggest fan but a very good friend and, of course, I look forward to seeing him continue his phenomenal career as one of the greatest big-race jockeys of all time.”
Although the decision is stated to be “by mutual agreement”, murmurs from those in and around the sport as to how much of a say Dettori had in his demotion will likely kick rumour mill into action. Having ridden the eight-year-old to many famous Group 1 victories over the years, most notably three Ascot Gold Cups and two Goodwood Cup triumphs – many will feel the 51-year-old jockey has been somewhat hard done by.
Yet while some may be surprised by the news, riding Stradivarius in the Goodwood Cup will not be a foreign concept to replacement jockey Atzeni. On the three occasions he has partnered the champion horse, they have reigned supreme – ensuring the pair remain as one of the leading tips for goodwood racing today specials to take out the two-mile affair.
“Andrea will be no stranger to Stradivarius as they are undefeated together, winning the 2017 and 2018 Goodwood Cups as well as the 2017 Queen’s Vase,” Nielsen said.
In what is being billed as potentially Stradivarius’ last outing as a professional racehorse, the decision to replace Dettori will either be hailed as a masterstroke – or conversely – dubbed a considerable failure.