Riyadh: Jockey Frankie Dettori has revealed Elite Power’s win in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint presented by Sports Boulevard took his “breath away” while expressing his delight at how well Country Grammer stayed on for the runner-up berth for the second consecutive year in the Saudi Cup.
The Italian believes Country Grammer can build on the run when he steps up in distance by a furlong for his defence of his Dubai World Cup crown on March 25, where he faces a potential rematch with all-the-way Saudi Cup winner Panthalassa.
Dettori is on his global farewell tour and is expected to bring down the curtain on his near 40-year career in November. He twice went close to winning in Riyadh with second-place finishes aboard Bob Baffert’s Country Grammer and Havnameltdown in the Saudi Derby presented by Boutique Group.
“To be honest with you about Country Grammer, I thought at the quarter pole that I was going to possibly end up with no (prize) money. They pay up to 10th and I thought I wasn’t going to make 10th the way we were going, but he is such a great horse and he is all heart,” Dettori told Sky Sports Racing.
“He just kept on digging and digging, and we managed to pick up a massive cheque and finished a good second. The mile and one furlong is maybe a touch short for him but hopefully Dubai will be up his street. A mile and a quarter is his gig and he is a tough and consistent horse.
“He never runs a bad race and while he may lack the turn of foot of the very good horses, you know he is going to be coming. He is a good partner to have and I really enjoy riding him,” he added.
Country Grammer lost out to the locally-trained Emblem Road in 2022 and went under by three-quarters of a length to Japan’s Panthalassa in this year’s renewal of the Saudi Cup.
Stablemate Havnameltdown was a popular choice to follow up Baffert’s Saudi Derby win of 12 months earlier courtesy of Pinehurst, but the front-runner was worried out of it after a tough home-stretch battle with the Saudi-trained and owned Commissioner King.
“I got chinned on the line in the Derby – Bob told me to nurse his speed as much as I could, but unfortunately the way we were drawn the other horse made me work for it and I paid the price at the end,” Dettori said.
“That was a bit sour, but Bill Mott’s horse was incredible. He took my breath away and it was an amazing performance.”
Mott’s Elite Power landed the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland in November and was arguably the most impressive winner on Saudi Cup night as he eased over three lengths clear of the field in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint in the colours of the late Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte operation.