The Flying Dismount, Frankie Dettori (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Frankie’s Fanfare Extended? Stay Tuned!
By Mike Willman
European sensation Frankie Dettori and American Racing Hall of Famer John Velazquez are headed east as planned following the conclusion of Santa Anita’s Classic Meet on Sunday, with Dettori’s schedule for the remainder of the year tentative, while Velazquez will head to Kentucky through Derby Day May 6 and then to New York for the remainder of the spring and summer.
“As everyone has seen, both of these guys are elite riders, complete professionals,” said agent Ron Anderson by phone Saturday morning. “In Frankie’s case, he brings an enthusiasm to the game that we’ve never even seen. He’s excited about winning, he’s excited for the owners, and he gets the crowd going…I still call him a kid because when I first met him, he was 15 and I used to sneak him on the backside at Hollywood Park because he wasn’t old enough to be licensed and the rest is history.”
Dettori, who announced in November that 2022 would be his final year in the saddle and that he would call it a career following the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Nov. 3 & 4, got off to a terrific start on opening day, Dec. 26, winning three races, including the Grade II San Antonio Stakes with Bob Baffert’s Country Grammer and he steamed into the Classic Meet finale on Sunday third in the standings with 24 wins and third by stakes-won with six added money tallies while exhibiting a youthful enthusiasm that has many fans and horsemen hoping he’ll reconsider retirement at the end of the year.
Benoit Photo “That’s up to him,” said Anderson. “I’m just a good listener at this point. I have to think, if things keep going well, he might reconsider. He is going to be back and forth over to England with some obligations. In an immediate sense, he’ll ride at Keeneland at least through April 17 and then he’ll head over to Newmarket. We’re going to have a 20-horse field in the Derby here on May 6 and I have to think something is going to come loose, so he might have an option to come back on Derby Day. It’s kind of all up in the air, so we’ll see.”
Velazquez, racing’s all-time leading money winning jockey and a winner of three Kentucky Derbies, enters closing day with 17 wins, eighth in the standings along with two stakes wins.
“As for Johnny, he’s heading to Keeneland this week and then Churchill. He’ll be back at Belmont Park the day after the Derby like he’s done for so many years. As far as a mount for the Derby, we’ll check with Tim Yakteen about Reincarnate (third in the Grade I Arkansas Derby April 1) and we’ll just have to wait and see.”