Breeders’ Cup Pay Dirt: Enabling the Lion and the Unicorn to Win

Trainer John Gosden and jockey Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori continue to have success as one of horse racing’s principal pairings.

Updated: Nov. 7, 2018 • 6:45 PM ET


Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori continues to be one of horse racing's most successful jockeys.

From the confines of my home on Saturday, I watched NBC’s beleaguered coverage of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, trying to swallow the news that the network had just secured itself as the home of horse racing for the next thousand years.

The fabulous Enable had just muzzled the doubters and the haters by winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and gentleman Nick Luck, NBC’s resident handicapping Englishman, interviewed the connections in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs.

I noticed that Enable’s trainer and jockey were in deep conversation, as the lead owner waxed about his prize charge. I wondered, “What could they be talking about?”

The relationship between a jockey and a trainer is a special one, yet complicated. Jockeys are like freelance writers; they go where the work takes them. And while they know their mounts, they don’t always get the opportunity to exercise them, which could be a major disadvantage. I always love watching the two of them interacting in the paddock and saddling ring. The trainer coaches, cajoles, and points in hopes of making an impact on something that they have little control over.

Meanwhile, the jockey is the pilot who seemingly nods, then climbs into the cockpit and throttles up. What percentage of them truly apply the instructions?

One of the best relationships between jockey and trainer that we’ve seen is one I watched after the Breeders’ Cup Turf — For it was John Gosden, the lion, and Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori, the unicorn, that were deep in conversation. Since the 1990s, the two have partnered to win hundreds of races.

Gosden often dons the fedora, which is paired with a classic jacket. Cambridge-educated, you would half expect him to be on his way to a lecture with a pipe in his coat pocket. His diction is impeccable and seems so calm under duress, a lion.

Meanwhile, there’s the boisterous Italian-born Dettori, or “Flying Frankie,” as he’s known for his jump out of the saddle once arriving in the winner’s circle. I never tire of his smile, his antics, nor his passion. He’s a unicorn; a rare specimen in a vertically challenged cadre filled with ego-maniacal Type-A personalities.

What makes the duo so fascinating is that their personalities are so vastly different; and yet, they continue to win. I suppose that’s a testament to greatness. But for all this adulation, there’s another element that’s essential — the role of the horse.

Not only do Gosden and Dettori have to collaborate with one another, they also have to get the best from the third member of their team. Enable was the one that actually ran the mile and a half at Churchill. She was the one that travelled the 3,000 miles in a cramped horse box aboard an airline after winning one of the most prestigious races outside Paris in early October at Longchamp. No other horse in Breeders’ Cup history has scored that double.

Gosden’s plan, Dettori’s passion and Enable’s heart combined to make history; and Frankie said it best as he was interviewed atop his ride as they strode near the grandstand.

“She conquered America!”

The lion, the unicorn, and the horse enabled us to experience a thrill for the ages.

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