Riding legend Dettori in happier place
Jockey Frankie Dettori carries his saddle after riding Beatrice Aurore during the first race at the Epsom Derby Festival in Surrey, southern England, on May 31, 2013
The 42-year-old Italian -- who if successful would equal the record of wins for a jockey in the race with four -- said he feared that after coming back from his six-month doping ban for taking cocaine in early June he had missed the boat with all the major owners already having signed up their first-choice jockeys.
With his highly successful 18-year association with the Godolphin Operation -- the brainchild of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum -- having come to an acrimonious end last season, which he blames for his resorting to taking cocaine, it left him without a retainer.
However, despite a winless Royal Ascot -- on the course where in 1996 he famously went through the card with all seven winners at combined odds of 25,000/1 -- at the end of June he was signed up by Qatari Sheikh Joann al-Thani.
Thanks to this association Dettori will ride the unbeaten French filly Treve in Sunday's showpiece, she having been bought by the sheikh for a reported 7million euros ($9.4million) after she won the French Oaks in June.
"To be honest I was just having a chat with my wife (Catherine) and saying that prior to coming back I was fearful because all the big owners and stables already had their jockeys signed up," said Dettori, speaking by phone from his home in Newmarket, England.
"That obviously made it very difficult to get rides on the best horses, so I am very pleased to get this chance.
"I really didn't expect to get a job like this."
The father of five, two boys and three girls, said his mindset was totally different to the one this time last year where his cheerful exterior hid the inner turmoil as his relationship with Godolphin deteriorated.
"I am on a different planet now, last year I was with a stable where I wasn't wanted," he said.
"It was very frustrating and my self esteem was at an all time low by the end of my time with Godolphin.
"However, now I start again, I'm only 42 after all! My mind now is clearer and I am happy.
"It is a new and fresh challenge."
Dettori, a three-time British champion jockey, said Treve had given him a great feeling when he won on her in the Group One Prix Vermeille at Longchamp a fortnight ago, but put into context the challenge she faced in winning this particular Arc.
"For me it is the best field since Dancing Brave's Arc," said Dettori, referring to the 1986 editon commonly held to be the best of the modern era.
"There are Derby champions (the winners of this year's Epsom, French, Irish and Japanese) and multiple Group One winners.
"There are 10 horses that you wouldn't be surprised if they won the race."
Dettori, though, believes Treve can emulate the great unbeaten Zarkava in 2008 and complete the treble of French Oaks, Vermeille and Arc.
"She ticks all the right boxes," he said.
"She gives me a very good feeling. She is unbeaten in four races and is blessed with great acceleration.
"It will be no walkover and she will need some luck as she likes to come from the back in the straight, so we will have to avoid the horses that are tiring and need to find the gaps.
"There are likely to be 20 runners so in the draw I would prefer 1-10 (on the inside) I certainly don't want to be drawn 18-20."
Dettori says he would love to join the list of four-time winning jockeys.
"Winning the Arc is the greatest feeling you can have in flat racing," he said.
"I have been lucky to win it three times and if I win a fourth I will join the elite such as Pat Eddery, Olivier Peslier and Yves Saint-Martin and it will help banish some memories."