Dettori wins first rides back
Frankie Dettori described winning on his comeback ride from a broken ankle at Lingfield as a "fairytale" as he gears up for what promises to be another momentous year in his incredible career.
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Back months ahead of the initial prognosis from the accident at Nottingham on October 2 which ruled him out of the winning Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe ride on Treve, Dettori's talent appeared undiminished as he galvanised Eco Warrior home from the front in the coral.co.uk Median Auction Maiden Stakes.
As always, the 43-year-old added his unmistakable brand of glamour to proceedings, signing autographs and spraying young participants of the Racing To School initiative with champagne on the podium before going on to complete a double on the second of three booked mounts.
"I'm knackered," he said with a smile as he returned to Eco Warrior's trainer, John Hills, having made nearly all the running over a mile and a half and pushing the 8-1 shot out a neck in front of the 10-11 favourite Wilhana.
Dettori then happily expanded on his hopes for the coming season to the waiting media.
"It's silly but I was nervous this morning," he said. "As much as I would be riding in a big race. You're hoping your legs hold up, and your fitness.
"I'm probably back about a week or 10 days before I'd planned but some good horses are coming up now so I had to speed up my routine.
"I've got a mechanical horse and I've got no pain, it's just trying to get my strength back and there's nothing like race-riding.
"He tested me big time as he was very lazy, but it's been a fairytale comeback. I thought the favourite was going to get me, but he had a bit left.
"When we went across the line my lungs and my thighs were burning but that's just fitness, it will come.
"Thank you to my surgeon, Mr Robinson, for screwing me back together and to everyone for putting up with me for the last three months.
"Originally they said six to nine months but I'm back in three and a half.
"That was a big pipe-opener and I'll keep myself busy, it's the mental awareness of racing, that's what you have to sharpen up."
As well as his ankle issue, Dettori famously served a six-month ban for being found guilty of taking a prohibited substance last year.
Understandably he is pleased to be leaving that behind and now has a fabulous range of horses to ride, including Treve, in his role as retained jockey to the vastly wealthy Qatari Sheikh Joaan Al Thani.
He was jetting off to Dubai after racing in order to link up with the owner's Mshawish at Meydan.
"I was away for New Year and I told my family to throw the diary of 2013 in the bin, I don't want to remember any of it," he said.
"I was at a disadvantage last season as I started halfway through and I was chasing my tail. This year I can start at the same time as the rest and can enjoy it better. I can pace myself.
"This year is a completely different story. I never thought I'd be back in January but I've got a lot to look forward to. I've got a great job. I'll be riding a bit in Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and then the French season starts earlier than England.
"The boss has around 70 in France and 70 in England, so I'll be spending time between the two countries and that will be fun.
"I've said to Ray (Cochrane, agent) that I don't want to be champion jockey, I don't want to ride every day, I don't need to, I've nothing to prove. I'll try to be selective and ride horses that have a chance.
"Treve is the highest-rated horse in training, but those kinds of memories are miles away. I just want to work on my fitness."
When news emerged of Dettori's return last week, he had been inked in by the name of Jeremy Noseda's Gone With The Wind in the 32Red.com Maiden Stakes.
Wearing the Paul and Susan Roy colours he sported in Classic victory on Sixties Icon in the St Leger, Dettori once more had to work hard as Android challenged up the rail but prevailed by the same margin of a neck as the 7-4 favourite.
He said: "I started riding out for Jeremy and I rode this horse. Jeremy said 'he's running next week, do you want to ride him?'.
"He worked well, so I said yes. He gave me an easier ride than the first one, and I'm still 100 per cent!"
There was to be no hat-trick, though, with the Alexandra Dunn-trained Exemplary well-beaten behind 11-4 favourite Arch Villain in the 32Red Conditions Stakes.