Frankie Dettori returned to Ascot on Thursday from a short break abroad and found he had been left out of John Gosden’s timetables for Newmarket on Saturday.
The manager’s public criticism of the jockey after a couple of high-profile defeats at Royal Ascot was one of the recurring themes of the last week.
Speculation Thursday that Gosden appeared to be doing nothing to pour cold water on him as his silence spoke louder than words was rife that the relationship is all but over.
Betfair even opened a book on his replacement by Hollie Doyle, who rode French Oaks winner Nashwa for Gosden on Sunday, the 4/11 favorite ahead of James Doyle, a 7/1 shot. This may be more of a publicity stunt than a money-making ploy, but some true words are said in jest.
There was no communication or explanation from the coach as of Thursday night, according to Dettori’s agent Peter Burrell.
He said: “We are completely in the dark. Frankie called the yard this morning to find out what he’s riding (on Saturday) and what weights he needs to do and he hasn’t been in touch from the yard. At registration time we saw the other jockeys on board. Everything has an end and if confirmed, he would envision a career as a gunslinger (freelance).”
On Saturday, Dettori, 51, has a ride, Lezoo, owned by a Hong Kong-based pal of jockey Marc Chan, for Ralph Beckett in Newmarket.
But he has been ridden on Nat Rothschild’s Stowell, who he has ridden the last five times, albeit without success, by Rab Havlin, always his number two, and James Doyle on Sunray Major, a horse on which Dettori won twice last year Juddmonte replaces , the outfit that also owned Enable.
Havlin also keeps the ride on George Strawbridge’s Mimikyu that won him last time, although under normal circumstances he would only have kept the saddle warm for Dettori.
It’s a desk-clearing moment by the looks of it, rather than just a shot across the bow after a lackluster Ascot for the pair, highlighted only by Inspiral’s success in the Coronation Stakes.
The trainer, a great diplomat but unable to contain his frustration this time, criticized his rides on Lord North, Stradivarius and the narrowly beaten Queen’s Saga.
Normally Dettori would ride into work at Gosden’s Clarehaven Stables on Saturday mornings. So if all participants continue to embrace the Fifth Amendment, that will be a pivotal moment.
Dettori and Gosden go way back. When Dettori came back from a ban imposed by French authorities in 2013 after testing positive for cocaine in 2013, his career appeared to have stalled. But he was picked up by Al Shaqab as a retained driver, and when William Buick left Gosden to join Godolphin in November 2014, it opened the door for the Gosden-Dettori Old Pals Act to be reinstated.
Within a year he had won a derby on the Golden Horn. Three Prix de L’Arc de Triomphes, three Gold Cups and three King Georges are just the tip of the iceberg of an incredibly symbiotic relationship.
The big question is what options are open to Dettori if this really is the moment when Sir Alex Ferguson-David Beckham throws the boot. There’s probably no job right now that’s big enough for him.
But just last season he drove two Classic winners for Aidan O’Brien so there will always be some second row action for him there and there would probably still be a lot of action in Group 1 as a Freelancer. One can imagine if and when he will retire, a moment that may have been brought closer by recent events, it will be on its own terms – not with a P45 at the post.