Frankie Dettori decides not to extend Al Shaqab deal and prioritises Gosden role
The formal association between Frankie Dettori and Al Shaqab Racing has come to an amicable end after the world's highest-profile jockey informed Sheikh Joaan he wanted to prioritise his commitment to John Gosden.
Speculation about Dettori's future role with Al Shaqab heightened during Royal Ascot when he failed to partner any horses for the Qatari royal family's racing stable.
On Monday it was revealed that as of this month Dettori – who won the 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes on Al Shaqab's Galileo Gold two years ago – is no longer contracted to an operation that endured torrid headlines during the winter when it emerged several leading Flat trainers were collectively owed more than £1 million in unpaid fees.
Although those bills were eventually settled, Dettori's six-figure retainer was reported to have been reduced significantly in line with a downsizing of Sheikh Joaan's racing interests in Britain, where he now has 60 horses in training, compared to 90 in 2017.
The sheikh's last British-trained Group race success came when Shalaa won the Bengough Stakes under Dettori at Ascot in October 2016.
Alison Begley, who took on the the role of Al Shaqab's UK racing manager after Harry Herbert left the organisation earlier this year, told the Racing Post: "It is all very amicable and we now have a gentleman's agreement with Frankie.
"We would have signed Frankie for another year but he is very keen to be free to ride John Gosden's horses and contacted Sheikh Joaan directly to say as much, although he also made clear he would like to ride for us on the bigger days.
"Before Ascot we asked Frankie's agent, Ray Cochrane, what was the situation, and Ray said Frankie would like to be available to ride John's horses and asked if the trainers of our horses could use their own jockeys. That was agreed and the sheikh was very kind to let Frankie off to ride John's horses as we knew we didn't have the high-profile horses going to Ascot."
Begley added: "Frankie's contract always went from July to July, so his contract with us has now come to an end.
"Frankie obviously wants to ride for John Gosden but he has said to us that he very much appreciates what the sheikh has done for him and if we have high-profile horses running Frankie will be there to ride them."
Al Shaqab's main base is now France, where Sheikh Joaan has 80 horses in training. His greatest moments in racing have come in the country, courtesy of superstar mare Treve, who in 2013 and 2014 completed back-to-back victories in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe under Thierry Jarnet.
However, Al Shaqab and Treve's trainer Criquette Head-Maarek then parted company in 2016.
Dettori, who completed a Group 1 double for Gosden at Royal Ascot aboard Without Parole and Stradivarius, said: "I did speak to Sheikh Joaan directly and told him that whilst the number of horses in England is decreasing, whether temporarily or permanently, I would be more than happy to ride for him for nothing."
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