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Inside Horse Racing

Nov. 15, 1999
Nov. 15, 1999

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Nov. 15, 1999

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Inside Horse Racing

BACK IN FRONT
Flamboyant rider Frankie Dettori redeemed himself at the
Breeders' Cup

This is an article from the Nov. 15, 1999 issue Original Layout

From the moment he swept to the wire in the Breeders' Cup Turf
race until well after he skipped through the Gulfstream Park
grandstand, stopping to gulp a beer a fan had given him, jockey
Frankie Dettori looked and acted like a prisoner set suddenly
free. Not only is Dettori among the most gifted race riders in
Europe--a champion in Great Britain who once piloted all seven
winners on an Ascot card--but he is also the sport's most
flamboyant showman. So it was last Saturday, as he drove Daylami
to a 2 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/2-mile Turf, that Dettori
pumped his right fist and then crossed himself as he hit the
wire, raised his arms and threw his helmet high in the air when
the crowd greeted him on his return. He added a final flourish
by performing a leaping dismount that sent him skyward like a
pilot blown from his cockpit--a young Angel Cordero suspended in
midair. "I'm on top of the world!" Dettori cried as he headed
toward the interview room, tasting the beer. "Top of the world!"

He had missed sitting on that familiar summit. Last year, aboard
Swain in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill
Downs, Dettori had ridden like a panic-stricken apprentice and
probably cost his horse the race. After turning for home four
wide, in a drive to overtake 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver
Charm, Swain began bearing out under Dettori's repeated
lefthanded whipping until the horse was racing near the outside
fence. He finished a close third, beaten by a length, and
Dettori's critics berated him for not switching his stick to
straighten his mount. "Everybody tried to kill me," he says. "I
made a mistake. It took me six months to get over it."

This year's Breeders' Cup was hardly the ideal venue for his
redemption. With victories in three of Britain's most important
races for older horses--culminating in his nine-length triumph in
the Sept. 11 Irish Champion Stakes--Daylami had emerged under
Dettori as the most capable racehorse in Europe, if not the
world. But in the Oct. 3 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's most
important race, the smooth-moving gray finished ninth, beaten by
23 1/2 lengths, after getting bounced around in a rain-drenched
bog.

When Daylami's owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of
Dubai, decided to ship him from his stable in Ireland to
Gulfstream, the question was not only what ill effects that last
race might have had on the horse but also how he would cope with
the muggy weather. European horses, which begin growing winter
coats in the cool of early autumn, have tended to look flat in
the sun's Miami vise: In two previous Breeders' Cups at
Gulfstream, they had gone 0 for 28. To lure the reluctant
Europeans, Cup officials this year promised to expand housing
from two to four barns--to minimize crowding and, consequently,
body heat--and install air-conditioning units.

Despite all that--and a cool front that blew through--the Europeans
were 0-10 in Saturday's Cup races by the time Dettori climbed
aboard Daylami. Tracking a hot pace, patiently saving ground,
Dettori swung the horse outside the leaders on the final turn and
had them all beaten by midstretch, soaring grandly to the front
and then racing home alone. It was easily the day's most sublime
performance.

Dettori got what he wanted. "Revenge is a plate you eat cold, and
mine was freezing," he said. "I redeemed myself today." Daylami
showed what he had, too, demonstrating that he's the finest
racehorse in the world. And, on a day when all bona fide U.S.
candidates for Horse of the Year went south to the Keys, he laid
his emphatic claim to that title, too.

Lukas Horses Romp Again
D. WAYNE'S WORLD

No trainer in Breeders' Cup history has had more impact on the
series than D. Wayne Lukas. Going into this year's event, he had
won six more Cup races (13) and taken home $5 million more in Cup
winnings ($13 million) than his nearest rivals, Shug McGaughey
and William Mott, respectively. Not only that, but Lukas has been
at his best in the Cup when the greatest forces have been arrayed
against him.

This year he thrived again, against a formidable stable of
horses saddled by archrival Bob Baffert, who in five races had
either favorites or strong contenders, including Horse of the
Year candidates Silverbulletday and River Keen and undefeated
juvenile filly Chilukki. Baffert went winless. In the day's
first major upset, a Lukas-trained 33-1 shot, Cash Run, ran away
from Chilukki in the stretch to win the Juvenile Fillies. In the
Classic, Lukas dispatched Cat Thief, a 20-1 shot who'd won only
one stakes race in 11 tries all year, against River Keen and
Baffert's other fine colt, General Challenge, as well as several
other accomplished foes. Cat Thief battled tenaciously for the
lead throughout the 10 furlongs before running off to win by 1
1/4 lengths. After the race one professional handicapper
deadpanned, "I wouldn't have bet Cat Thief with Confederate
money."

In a year in which Lukas trained a former claimer, Charismatic,
to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, this Classic was the
crowning touch--by the trainer of the year.

Breeders' Cup Sprint
IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE SHOES

Early on the morning of Nov. 4, two days before the Sprint,
Artax stood outside Barn 16 at Gulfstream Park getting fitted
with glue-on shoes while his owner, Ernie Paragallo, watched.
The colt required the special footwear because of a bruise that
had been found on his right hoof on the day of his last race,
the Forest Hills Handicap at Belmont, on Oct. 16. Despite the
injury, Artax set the track record for six furlongs that day
(1:07 3/5). "He's the fastest horse on the planet," said
Paragallo as the farrier worked.

That was a bold assertion. Though Artax's talent is unquestioned,
the big bay was far from a lock on Saturday, due largely to his
inconsistency this year. He'd won only three times in 14 starts
and had shown a maddening tendency to break dead last from the
gate.

He had found his stride this fall, however, decisively winning
his last two starts. "He really blossomed," his trainer, Louis
Albertrani, said last Saturday. "I'm not sure why. It got cooler,
and he trained exceptionally."

In the Sprint the colt jumped from the gate, stalked a
blistering pace down the backstretch, seized the lead midway
through the turn and held off a driving Kona Gold to win by a
half-length. In the process he equaled the six-furlong track
record of 1:07 4/5, set in 1973 by his great-grandfather, Mr.
Prospector, and left little doubt as to who was the best
sprinter of 1999. --Mark Beech

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL FRAKES Cat Tonic Breeders' Cup Classic winner Cat Thief, Pat Day(green cap) up, surges to the front of the pack as the horses make their first pass of the grandstand at Gulfstream Park last Saturday. [Leading Off]COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY Dettori coaxed a brilliant Turf victory out of Daylami, who staked his claim as Horse of the Year.