Italian star Dettori seeks his fortune in Hongkong

Robin Parke

NEWMARKET trainer Luca Cumani confirmed last night that rising star Frankie Dettori is Hongkong-bound next season.

Cumani and fellow-Italian Dettori met for crisis talks in English racing's headquarters following the trainer's return from a West Indies holiday.

The move, which involves Dettori joining Hongkong trainer Gary Ng Ting-keung, had been on the cards for some time following the 22-year-old rider's prolonged stay in the territory over the Christmas and New Year period.

Dettori is understood to have flown to his native Italy last night after his talks with Cumani and is staying with his father, Gianfranco, who has been kept informed of his son's Hongkong ambitions.

Although widely expected, the news will still shock English racing, already reeling from the decision by Irish champion jockey Mick Kinane to split his time between Ireland and Hongkong rather than accept a contract with leading racehorse owner Sheik Mohammed.

Although Dettori has informed Cumani that he will not be available from August onwards, the Royal Hongkong Jockey Club must still approve the proposed contract with Ng.

Ng must apply to the Racing Committee of the Jockey Club for permission to retain a rider next season and he will do this next month.

Given that he has a stable of 50-plus horses, it is a rubber-stamp formality that he will get the approval.

However, the Licensing Committee of the Jockey Club must then approve Dettori for a licence, and that may not necessarily be a formality, even for a brilliant young rider who would appear to have Europe at his feet.

Officially, no sums have been mentioned in relation to a proposed retainer for Dettori, but it is known that one of his major reasons for the prospective move is money.

The young rider is not on a lucrative contract with his compatriot in Newmarket and a contract in Hongkong is certain to be worth much more.

Gary Ng was not available for comment last night but said earlier: ''I have spoken with Frankie and we have agreed that everything depends on the Jockey Club.

''He has told me that he is keen to ride here and he has shown that he is a first class jockey. With the number of horses in my stable I need a stable rider and there is no reason why Frankie would not fill the bill.

''However, I stress again that everything has to be agreed with the Jockey Club.''