Racing world left reeling with hero Dettori's career on line after failed drug test
23:16 GMT, 13 November 2012
One name was expected to dominate the conversation as 300 members of the British racing world sipped champagne at the swankiest black-tie award ceremony in the racing calendar on Tuesday night.
But the majority of the talk at the Cartier Awards at London’s Dorchester Hotel was not of the magnificent Frankel, crowned Horse of The Year. Instead, it was racing’s other force of nature — Frankie Dettori.
His name was on every tongue as the blue-bloods of the Thoroughbred world attempted to come to terms with the news that the sport’s best-known jockey faces a hearing with the French authorities next week that has the potential to derail his career.
Frank assessment: Two of Dettori's rides on the day in question were Willing Foe and and Joshua Tree (below)
Dettori's deeds by numbers
15 years old when he rode his first winner, Rif in Turin. His first win in Britain, on Lizzy Hare at Goodwood, followed a year later.
3 Champion Jockey titles. He won his first in 1994 before winning it again in 1995 and 2004.
7 winners when he went through the card at Ascot in September 2006. His jump dismount became one of the memorable sporting images of the year.
3,430 Races in 14 countries during an 18-year association with the Godolphin stable. He won 943 races with them, 110 of which came at Group One level.
Its impact on the racing world could be seismic.
Dettori, 41, is not just a three-time
champion and Derby winning jockey. To many he is British Flat racing.
From the exuberant flying dismount that crowns his biggest winners to
the slightly comic English with his native Italian accent, Dettori has
been a breath of fresh air since he swept into a fusty old sport in
Apart from iron-man AP McCoy, Dettori,
a one-time captain on the BBC’s A Question of Sport, awarded the OBE in
2000 and co-owner of restaurants with celebrity chef Marco Pierre
White, is the only jockey with a chance of being invited to share a sofa
on a mainstream chat show.
That is why at a windswept Newmarket
racecourse last month a Channel 4 film crew were filming Dettori inserts
to use when they take over sole broadcasting of the sport in the new
year. It is also why the Italian fronted the publicity campaign for the
3million British Champions Day at Ascot on October 20.
Is there any wonder that news of the French investigation was greeted like a blow to the sport’s solar plexus
In the dock: Dettori will have to answer charges after failing a drug test
Hurricane Fly, the 2011 Champion Hurdler, is the star name in the seven entries for Sunday’s Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. Trainer Willie Mullins has also entered Blackstairmountain. The opposition could include Noel Meade’s Go Native plus Dermot Weld-trained mare Unaccompanied.
Trainer Ferdy Murphy is praying rain stays away from Cheltenham for his Paddy Power Gold Cup hope Divers, who was third last year. Murphy said: ‘The rain that fell last year didn’t help. The better the ground, the better his chance.’
Gordon Eliott has said his useful chaser Jessie’s Dream will not run until much later in the season. The gelding has not run since finishing second to Bostons Angel in the 2010 RSA Chase. The nine-year-old is being troubled by the same tendon problem that kept him off the track last season.
It emerged via Dettori’s legal team,
amid growing rumours that he had tested positive on one of his many
riding forays across the Channel.
True to form, the secretive French
racing authority — France Galop — refused to elaborate, even to confirm
on which day the hearing will take place. A spokesman for the British
Horseracing Authority, who would reciprocate any penalty handed down by
the French, confirmed they had no prior knowledge of the investigation.
The most furious speculation
surrounded the substance for which Dettori tested positive on September
16. There are 142 on the banned substance list, ranging from aspirin and
alcohol to more serious drugs.
If it is one of the latter, Dettori
could be facing a prolonged period away from the sport. When Kieran
Fallon tested positive to a meta-bolite of cocaine in 2006, the French
authorities banned him for six months. When Fallon tested positive again
in August 2007, he was hit with an 18-month suspension.
Dettori can ill-afford any time away
from the sport after his 18-month association with Sheik Mohammed’s
Godolphin stable ended last month after a particularly unhappy season.
Frankie's folly: Dettori will now be the subject of an inquiry
Dettori and Godolphin had enjoyed global success but, with the promotion
of young French jockey Mickael Barzalona, Dettori had lost his position
as stable No 1.
It was a public humiliation and
rumours of a split circulated before the Derby in June when the
Godolphin operation failed to find a runner for Dettori and handed the
ride on Kailani, their only horse in the Oaks, to Barzalona.
Dettori’s only Group One winner in
Britain for Godolphin this season was Colour Vision in the Ascot Gold
Cup and his return of 51 winners was his worst since his plane crash
season in 2000.
The split finally came when Dettori
chose to ride Camelot in last month’s Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, a
horse owned by Ireland’s Coolmore Stud, the fierce commercial rivals of
It was tantamount to handing in your notice in public and the subsequent split surprised no-one.
Quite when Dettori will ride again is
anyone’s guess. Claims that he fancies a tilt at the 2013 title would be
scuppered by any ban, even if much of it covers the close season when
Dettori would be expected to be riding overseas.
Allez! Dettori had four rides during the meet at Longchamp in September
But this is about much more than
sport, it is a potential personal crisis for the father of five who has
proved his resilience when bouncing back from that plane crash which
cost the pilot Patrick Mackey his life as well as being issued with a
police caution for possession of cocaine as a wayward youngster in
This is a more mature Dettori but the
date of his positive test could be significant — it came 24 hours after
Encke had given Godolphin their only British Classic winner in the St
Leger at Doncaster.
The jockey on board was Barzalona.