Gronkowski will have a new partner in the saddle when he lines up in the Saudi Cup with World-renowned rider Frankie Dettori booked to ride the Phoenix Thoroughbreds and Khalid bin Mishref owned star.
Furthermore, the Italian veteran jockey will extend his association with the son of Lonhro through to the Dubai World Cup as last year’s runner-up bids to go one place better this time around.
Dettori has developed a successful relationship with Phoenix Thoroughbreds having ridden Advertise to all three of the colt’s Group One successes in addition to landing Group Two glory onboard Signora Cabello.
“It’s an amazing ride to get,” said Dettori of Gronkowski. “I’m excited to ride him for two reasons. First, he doesn’t have to travel that far from Dubai and I think the track will suit him. It’s probably the best dirt track I’ve ridden anywhere in my life. It’s got the longest straight; he’ll relish that and is the type of horse that will enjoy the Riyadh track.”
Gronkowski, who will carry the colours of Mishref in the richest race in the World, has had a couple of prep runs in Dubai and Dettori is content with how his new mount performed.
“He had his final prep run the other day and when you see the bare form you might think he’s not run so well,” explained the rider. “But I spoke with his trainer, Salem bin Ghadayer, and he said it was just a stepping stone for the big day and that he that he wanted me to ride the horse in both races, so I’m super excited.
“He likes the dirt, he’s rated 120 so he’s no slouch and he doesn’t have many miles on the clock. I’ve been very lucky for Phoenix Thoroughbreds so let’s hope the luck continues.”
The Saudi Cup will continue an international odyssey for Gronkowski. The five-year-old started with victories in England before running second to US Triple Crown winner Justify in the Belmont Stakes. He then ran his career-best to run Thunder Snow close in the Dubai World Cup last year.
“We’re delighted to have Frankie ride Gronkowski for the first time,” said Phoenix Thoroughbreds CEO Amer Abdulaziz. “He is among the World’s best riders and has given us some great days at the races. With the horse in top form, and with some luck, I’m confident we could have another day to remember.”
While Co-owner and Saudi Native Khalid bin Mishref added:
“It’s a dream come true to be involved with a horse like Gronkowski for the inaugural Saudi Cup and to have one of the best and most recognised riders in the World on board is fantastic. Frankie’s been a great supporter of this race and his experience of riding the course will be invaluable. Fingers crossed we’ll go very close.”
Dettori enjoyed his best-ever year in 2019, in terms of Group One wins recording 17 Worldwide. He also reached the miles stone of 250 top-level successes but still hungry for more he is very much looking forward to taking part in the first running of the Saudi Cup.
“Just to be involved in the race is a big honour,” said Dettori. “The Saudi people have invested a lot of money in this project and just to be in the line up is a big thing so I’ll be trying my very best to win it.”
The Saudi Cup takes place at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh on February 29.