Dettori's despair: He's lost the top job in racing and now he faces six-month ban
21:57 GMT, 17 November 2012
Frankie Dettori, having lost his high-profile job with Godolphin in painful circumstances, now faces a ban of up to six months at the very moment he was planning to revive his faltering career.
Dettori, 41, will appear before French stewards on Tuesday after failing a drugs test at Longchamp on September 16.
Given their zero-tolerance policy on banned substances, they are unlikely to treat him leniently.
Double trouble: Frankie Dettori lost the top job with Godolphin and now faces a ban
They banned former champion Kieren
Fallon for six months in 2006 after testing positive for traces of
cocaine, then hit him with an 18-month suspension when he offended
When I worked with Dettori on his
autobiography a few years ago, he likened his job with Godolphin to
driving a Ferrari in Formula One.
If the hearing in Paris goes against
him, he may soon find that he is unable to drive the equine equivalent
of a Ford Fiesta until the end of May.
These are desperate days for Dettori.
His future is in the balance, his reputation as one of sport's good
guys is being questioned and he will be hurting as never before
following the events of the past month.
People imagine that Dettori has a constantly sunny nature.
Yet while we worked on his book, he
revealed a bleaker side of his character, which sometimes leaves him
wanting to hide from the world.
Glory days: Frankie wins the Epsom Derby on Authorised
He spoke with searing honesty of his
despair after a miserable start to the season in 2003 following his
success on Moon Ballad in the Dubai World Cup.
Rides were sparse, winners
increasingly elusive and doubts were aired about his commitment. It left
him spiralling into depression.
He admitted: 'I was in turn
depressed, lethargic, moody and angry. I felt that everyone was trying
to jump on my back at the same time and squash me, all making out that I
wasn't interested in riding day to day. I care like mad about my
riding. I love racing and I love my job, and it hurt like hell that
people couldn't see it.'
Nine years later, he has endured a
miserable season that has seen him largely overlooked by Godolphin in
favour of two much younger rivals.
The writing was on the wall from the moment Mickael Barzalona won the Dubai World Cup for Godolphin in March.
In June, Dettori was left idle as Barzalona rode for the team in the Derby.
Famous silks: Sheik Mohammed Al Maktoum's colours are unlikley to be used by Dettori too much in future
Then came the body blow in September, when Barzalona landed the St Leger ride on Encke, with Dettori again out of favour.
He has always been a confidence
rider, so by choosing others ahead of him in the races that matter most,
Sheik Mohammed was sending a public signal that their old allegiance
was nearing its end.
It was hardly the greatest surprise when Dettori reacted by taking the ride on Camelot for Aidan O'Brien in the Arc in Paris.
The truth is that Dettori has never
really enjoyed the daily slog to distant outposts like Folkestone or
Catterick in midweek for a couple of ordinary mounts.
And for a number of seasons he has
not often been required to do so. For more than 20 years he has been a
Group One performer, riding at the highest level.
He needs the biggest stages to showcase his talents.
Sign here: Dettori in 2002 with his book, which Jonathan Powell helped write
In 2003, he turned his season around
in spectacular style and will need all the single-minded determination
he showed then if he is revive his fortunes this time.
A period of enforced idleness will
allow him to consider other options away from the racecourse and, in the
short term, he could probably earn as much from showbusiness and other
interests as he has done on the track.
Dettori has sometimes hinted that dropping down a league or two as a jockey would be too painful for him.
He once told me: 'I've been so spoilt with the horses I've ridden that I couldn't settle for second-best.'