Champion international jockey Dettori to ride at Saratoga
By Sean Morris | 07/17/2014 04:05 PM ET
For the first time ever, international riding sensation Frankie Dettori will ride at historic Saratoga Race Course when he gets aboard Successful Brothers in Friday's first race.
Over the course of Saratoga's opening weekend, Dettori will have the opportunity to ride a bevy of horses, primarily for trainer Wesley Ward, who himself is no stranger to European success.
"I didn't even really know [Dettori] prior to a month ago," said Ward. "I send horses to Europe just about every year and send over a different jockey each time, and he's always been very kind and gracious to my riders. On this latest trip, I ran into him, and I happened to need a rider for Undrafted, who was going to run in England in his next start. Since he was so kind to my riders, I wanted to return the favor, so I offered him the mount."
Dettori continued to make a favorable impression on Ward prior to Undrafted's start in the Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket by going out of his way to get aboard the 4-year-old gelding in the mornings leading up to the race.
"In the paddock before the race, he mentioned that he had never ridden at Saratoga," said Ward. "Since he had been so good to me, I was happy to accommodate him."
Dettori, 43, was born in Milan, Italy, the son of a champion Italian jockey and a circus performer who specialized in horseback acrobatics.
The riding bug caught Dettori at an early age. By 8-years-old, he owned his own horse - a palomino pony that he would ride daily. By 13, Dettori dropped out of school to become a stable boy and apprentice jockey, and a year later, he secured a job with trainer Luca Cumani, for whom he would eventually become stable jockey.
Dettori's partnership with Cumani catapulted the young rider's career, as he quickly established his position as one of the most prolific jockeys in all of Europe. His career has seen him win nearly every noteworthy European race and dozens more abroad, and also includes a legendary seven-win day at Ascot in September 1998.
On Friday alone, Dettori has the mount on six Ward entrants, none of which are higher than 4-1 on the morning line. Dettori will have another seven mounts on Saturday, four for Ward, as well as one for Nick Esler, Mark Hennig, and Chad Brown.
Among Dettori's first 13 mounts, Mr Ciolko, who runs in Saturday's sixth race at 12-1, has the longest odds morning line odds, which should give the famed jockey every opportunity to showcase his talent on one of American racing's biggest stages.
"Hopefully he'll have some success and we'll see him back again soon," said Ward. "And who knows, maybe he'll come down to Florida during the winter, too."