Jockey Great Frankie Dettori Seeks first Triple Crown Win in Preakness

May 16th, 2024

Dettori Set to Ride Imagination in $2 Million Middle Jewel on Saturday

BALTIMORE – Legendary jockey Frankie Dettori, who has excelled on the international stage while also winning 15 Breeders’ Cup races in the U.S., longs to add another notable triumph to his impressive riding resume: a win in a Triple Crown event.

The 53-year-old reinsman figures to have his best shot at doing just that Saturday when he rides Imagination in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico.

“It’s the second leg of the Triple Crown, so of course it’s important – a tick in the box for my career,” Dettori said.

The 149th Preakness for 3-year-olds headlines a blockbuster, 14-race card featuring nine stakes, five graded, worth $3.3 million in purses. First race post time is 10:30 a.m. EST. Post time for the Preakness is 7:01 p.m. EST.

It will not only be Dettori’s first Preakness, but also his first visit to Pimlico. And Imagination, second choice on the morning line at 3-1, puts Dettori in his best position yet to prevail in a Triple Crown race.

While Dettori has never ridden in either the Preakness or Belmont Stakes (G1), his two mounts in the Kentucky Derby (G1) were relative longshots: China Visit, who finished sixth in 2000 at odds of 23-1; and Society Man, who was 16th two weeks ago at 47-1.

Imagination, winner of the San Felipe Stakes (G2), enters the Preakness off a neck loss to Stronghold in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 6. With the defection of morning-line favorite Muth from the field, Imagination provides Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert with a formidable backup as he shoots for his record-extending ninth Preakness victory. The colt has never finished worse than second in six career races.

“I’m obviously super excited,” Dettori said. “He’s a very honest horse. He’s trained by a Hall of Famer, Bob Baffert. My horse is tough and he’s consistent. But I’m not taking anything for granted. Don’t forget, we are taking on the Kentucky Derby winner [Mystik Dan].”

Following Muth’s defection Wednesday morning due to an elevated temperature, Mystik Dan was installed as the 8-5 favorite on Thursday’s revised morning line.

“He’s going for the Triple Crown,” Dettori said of the Derby winner. “We are there to spoil it, correct? It’s not a penalty kick. It’s going to be tough race. I know it’s a small field, but it’s a very select group.”

Dettori, who is now based in Southern California, has enjoyed recent success with Baffert horses. The jockey rode Baffert’s Newgate to victory in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) in March and won the 2022 Dubai World Cup (G1) aboard Baffert’s Country Grammer – one of Dettori’s record-tying four wins in the prestigious race.

Now it is Imagination he hopes to land in the winner’s circle.

“Frankie is a top rider and knows the horse pretty well now,” Baffert said. “[Imagination] has some little quirks about him but Frankie has him figured out.”

Though he has no experience riding at Pimlico, Dettori said he intends to seek advice from other riders on the track’s nuances.

“[Maryland jockey] Feargal Lynch is a good friend of mine and I’m going to have dinner with him on Thursday,” Dettori said. “He’s been there for the last 20 years, and I’m going to pick his brain a bit. And I have plenty of friends like Mike Smith and Angel Cordero and Jerry Bailey, so if I need to reach out and ask questions, I can always pick the phone up and talk to the greats.”

Dettori will also get a feel for the track when he rides on Friday’s card, as well as three stakes Saturday leading up to the Preakness.

“I’m riding on Friday to see how the track rides,” he said. “It’s not my first rodeo and I’ll be on the ball, taking everything in and watching racing to see how the track rides.”

While it is Dettori’s first visit to Pimlico, he has ridden previously in Maryland, winning the 1990 Laurel Dash (G1) at Laurel Park aboard Roman Prose.

A Preakness victory would be even sweeter. But Dettori is trying not to think that far ahead.

“I don’t like to think like that,” Dettori said. “I’m not thinking about the aftermath. At the moment, I’m concentrating on getting the best out of the horse. I’m thinking about putting the horse in a position that he can show his best. I’ve still got a job to do, and we’ll see what happens. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’ve got a good partner in my horse.”

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