Their faces tell a story of three decades in the saddle.
Yet, with their services in constant demand in big races, it can be argued that top jockeys Frankie Dettori and Anton Marcus are in the prime of their lives.
Of most interest are the three common denominators shared by the two well-known riders. Both are household names in their own country, both have reached a half-century (Dettori in December) and both are out to make racing history in the next 10 weeks.
Yet they are contrasting characters. Dettori is flamboyant and outgoing, as his famous jump from the saddle in the No 1 box attests. Marcus is more reserved, will often excuse himself from post-race interviews and — like Horatio Caine in CSI Miami — will use five words when others need 10.
One American scribe was amazed when Dettori was in the US for the Breeders Cup. He wrote: “Frankie poses for photos and greets strangers as if he has known them forever.”
It is fair to say both jockeys have taken a leaf out of Gary Player's book and follow his famous saying: “I find the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
This hard work has propelled Dettori, whose turbulent career includes a light aircraft crash and suspension for possessing drugs, to more than 500 group 1 race successes — an impressive total. He won the Derby twice, in 2007 and 2015.
“Jockey is a very fine name, but we are actually psychiatrists of horses because we have to find out what makes them tick. Some horses you can bully, some you’ve got to coddle. That goes with instinct and that goes with years of riding horses,” says Dettori.
Marcus — nicknamed “Superman” by his legion of supporters — has ridden more than 100 grade 1 winners and booted home some famous names including Jet Master, Legal Eagle, Variety Club and Jay Peg.
So what of the historic goals which both hope to achieve in the next 10 weeks?
Dettori says of superstar mare Enable that “she has emotionally taken me to places no other horses have”.
This powerful combination travelled to Paris last October trying to become the first horse to win the Arc De Triomphe three years in a row. It did not happen and the French kept the prize at home.
It was a surprise when John Gosden announced the mare would stay in training for another tilt at the Paris race, and possibly her task on October 4 will be harder than 12 months ago.
Waiting to take on Enable — now six years old — will be Aidan O’Brien’s talented filly Love, and Coronation Cup and Eclipse winner Ghaiyyath. I think UK bookies have got it right in quoting Love as the 7-2 favourite, Enable at 9-2 and Ghaiyyath at 8-1.
With Love set to receive 7lb from Enable and 10lb from Ghaiyyath, I will be requesting further credit from my bank manager whom I’m sure already has me listed as a “worry about” client.
Marcus perhaps faces an even tougher task on Do It Again in the behind-closed-doors Vodacom Durban July at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday.
Do It Again became the fifth horse to win back-to-back Julys when successful in 2019. His name was added to the record books which show El Picha winning in 1999 and 2000 and Milesia Pride in 1949 and 1950.
To Marcus’s credit, he has never swerved an interview from this veteran writer and — as readers want to know his opinion on SA’s most famous race — I contacted him a couple of days before the draw.
The most important question: “Which horse would you like to ride if Do It Again wasn’t in the field?”
Marcus: “It would be the toss of a coin between Rainbow Bridge and Belgarium. They are the two that should be involved due to their consistencies.”
While Rainbow Bridge ticks the most boxes in his bid to give the Rattrays their first July win, Marcus’s choice of Belgarium will delight those who feel he is the pick of Justin Snaith’s quintet. The Cape trainer aimed to get him in with a light weight and he has succeeded with the six-time winner carrying 53kg.
What neither Marcus nor Snaith had envisaged is the stable’s shocking luck at the draw: there’s a maximum of 18 runners and they have been allotted barriers 14, 15, 17 and 18. Perhaps it’s a good thing there were no post-draw interviews.
Interestingly, Marcus says the best-weighted runner is Bunker Hunt, adding the proviso “however, overstating ability?”, which suggests he is not 100% convinced this season’s Sun Met fifth is up to taking top honours.
Despite the undisputed ability of both riders, the right move might be to bet on Do It Again and Enable both being beaten.
Nevertheless, what is certain is that both jockeys will go into the respective races in a positive frame of mind.
The final word from Dettori: “I try to have a positive outlook because horses feel your feelings.”
Durban July betting:
9-2 Rainbow Bridge
15-2 Got The Greenlight
17-2 Bunker Hunt, Do It Again
20-1 Golden Ducat, Shango
Source: Bookmaker Lance Michael
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