Jockeys Frankie Dettori and Anton Marcus, who will both celebrate their 50th birthdays in 2020, have given racing a much-needed shot in the arm with outstanding performances in the UK and SA.
The fillip for the sport was desperately needed as few will dispute the sport is in dire straits.
In last weekend’s edition, racing newspaper The Sporting Post stated: “If we relied on our industry captains, we’d be better off taking our chances in a casino where the customer gets the marginal sense of being valued.
“Besides whispers of transitional management committees, lifeboats and restructuring, the average stakeholder remains in the dark. How to win friends and influence people — not,” it added.
The first race to set the pulses racing on Saturday was the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in which Dettori, who turns 49 in December, overcame a rough passage to win on John Gosden’s superstar filly Enable.
After the race Dettori told reporters: “She gave me emotions that no other horse has ever given me in my life. I love her.”
Trainer Gosden commented: “You had the best older horse and the best older filly taking on horses with that level of quality and they outclassed the whole field. It was a proper King George — what more could racing have asked for.”
One UK journalist wrote: “Our eyes will be blessed to ever see something as spectacular again.”
An hour later in SA, 49 year-old Marcus, regarded by many as the best jockey in the country, made a tactical decision in the WSB Champions Cup at Hollywoodbets Greyville that so nearly resulted in victory for his mount, Soqrat.
Unfortunately for backers of the Aussie-bred three-year-old — Business Day’s selection last Friday to upset the favourites —Rainbow Bridge got the measure of Soqrat in the closing stages.
Still, it was a race to savour, with the Sporting Post commenting that the “big KZN season has been a bright light in the gloom of the current chaos in the halls of power”.
While the jockeys title will this week go to either Lyle Hewitson or Muzi Yeni, who has refused to throw in the towel, Marcus has again enjoyed an outstanding season. Figures to July 22 show he has ridden 186 winners from 630 rides - Hewitson and Yeni have contested nearly 900 and 1,100 more races respectively.
Over in the UK, Dettori is the sport’s poster child and a crowd of 26,406 made their way to Ascot to see him partner dual Arc De Triomphe winner Enable in the King George.
The race also resulted in increased viewing figures for ITV, with 934,000 people tuning in compared to 921,000 in 2018. However, the average audience was down to 650,000 from 689,000 in 2018.
The big question for UK racing fans is whether they will ever see Enable in action in her home country again. She has been entered for the Yorkshire Oaks and Juddmonte International at York in August.
Gosden says a decision will be made this week.
“She is very expressive and will tell us what she wants to do. It’s whether to go to York or straight to the Arc [October 6].
“She is in two races at York, so it would be a later decision as to which one we go for as we would be training for the same meeting. The main decision is whether to go to York or not,” he added.
James Brennan, head of marketing at York, is understandably keeping his fingers crossed that Enable heads for the Knavesmire.
“Enable is now box office. We were honoured and privileged to have Frankel run at York in 2012, so we have some sense of the effect. A typical Juddmonte day would have 18,000 to 20,000 here depending on the weather — Frankel took us north of 30,000.”