Frankie Dettori wins. Meanwhile, in other racing news…

Frankie Dettori wins. Meanwhile, in other racing news…
Frankie Dettori wins at Sandown. First win after drugs ban

Frankie’s back!

“I’ve missed you guys.” Those were the words of Frankie Dettori as he was reunited with the press last week.

And I can see why.

Some racing journalists and broadcasters totally lost their sense of perspective over the return of Dettori following his long ban for failing a drugs test in France. A result of him having taken cocaine.

While he was out of action we had the mea culpa interview with Clare Balding on Channel 4 (see earlier article). A film that should have been shot in soft focus, so pandering was it to Frankie.

Now I am on record more than once for praising the long career of a man who has done plenty to get people through the door at racecourses up and down the land. His on screen bubbly image, which has long belied a much more moody persona away from the cameras, has attracted people to go racing who otherwise may have stayed at home.

And we must applaud that. Racing needs all the help it can get on that front.

 

I have over many years written about several of Frankie’s rides with the high praise they deserved. At his best, Dettori was brilliant.

But his very best days in the saddle were behind him before he failed the dope test. Godolphin knew that. Hence why they had sidelined him for some high profile races.

As for his alleged cocaine use, people in racing had been speaking about that behind their hands for a long time. In 1993 he was cautioned by the police over possession.

Now all those people could have been wrong. Maybe it was like one of those rumours you get in the school playground. Told so often people believe the story without any evidence to support it. In which case an awful lot of people owe Frankie Dettori an apology.

You can make your own mind up on that one. Frankly I’m not too concerned what Frankie does in his private life. As long as he gives every ride every chance of winning.

I would love to see the unedited footage of that Clare Balding interview. I have watched the edited version a few times and cannot get away from the fact that when Clare asks Frankie if the cocaine incident was a one off, there is a quick “oh yes” before there is an edit and he goes on to talk about the image of racing in general following the Mahmood Al Zarooni ban.

I know a thing or two about editing film footage, having worked in TV for 25 years. So I remain curious what came after the “oh yes.”

frankie dettori sat down to talk racing with clare balding on channel 4

When Frankie met Clare

But we move on and, after days of praying each night for Frankie to win, those members of the racing media who have posters of Frankie on their bedroom wall can at last sleep easy in their beds.

At Sandown on Thursday night Dettori won on Asian Trader. I could hardly believe my eyes when he performed a flying dismount. A celebration previously reserved for his Group race wins. The big events. The high profile races. I think Frankie would have been better advised to smile and go quietly to the weigh in.

From reading Twitter, once you get past those salivating members of the media, I gain the distinct impression that Dettori is fast annoying punters and some fellow jockeys alike. While it is not his fault that the press and television were obsessed with his comeback, he should be acting more humble than he is.

Frankie wants to go on until he is 50. He is 42 now. He will ride more winners. He may well be a Group 1 winning jockey again. But, whether he and others wish to accept it or not, Dettori’s best days are behind him. That he loves racing and wants to go on and on is great.

That people who only go racing once in a while will still get to take photos of a smiling Frankie is also good news for the sport. He has been one of the best jockeys of his generation. But let us not forget, courtesy of Godolphin, he also rode some of the best thoroughbred horses of recent years.

 

The press coverage has been over the top. The concentration on Frankie Dettori is wrong.

Journalist and one time agent for the likes of Kieren Fallon and Eddie Ahern, Terry Norman, tweeted: “This obsession with Frankie Dettori riding his first winner after his ban is now becoming tedious.”

Terry is spot on.

Neil Callan enjoying winners as a freelance jockey

Neil Callan rides Resurge to victory

What about the recent excellent form of Neil Callan since he went freelance? What about his winning ride on Resurge last Friday, which came on the same day as Callan was stupidly ‘jocked off’ a horse he had ridden on the 16 previous outings. Instead Sri Putra was ridden by the returning to action Dettori, who promptly finished last, admitting that he “needed to lose a few pounds.”

Callan excelled himself last Saturday. In the saddle and in the arena of diplomatic relations. How he handled the stupid question fired at him by a not paying attention Emma Spencer (nee Ramsden) deserves to win an award in itself. Go to the top of the class Neil Callan. Prepare for detention Emma.

 

Racing should be shouting loud and often about the jockeys who do the sport proud.

What about Ryan Moore? Back to his best. Riding consistently well right now and often performing wonders. As he did when riding from the front at Windsor on Monday and winning the last race by 8 lengths. And again on Thursday night when he got Ashaadd out of trouble and beat Homage at odds of 8-1.

And what about the young ones? The jockeys who are trying to scratch a living without resorting to cheating. The ones who could not afford cocaine even if they were so tempted. Most days of every week they sit in traffic jams, sharing cars, travelling the length and breadth of the UK trying to earn some prize money. Attempting to win a race so they can pocket more than a very basic riding fee.

Why don’t these lads and lassies get more coverage in the racing press and on television? Those who follow the sport would be interested in following a season in the life of an up and coming young jockey. To witness their trials and tribulations.

ryan moore wins by 8 lengths on jupiter storm

Ryan Moore wins at Windsor

Only when the public as a whole, and punters in particular, understand more of what is involved in being a jockey can we all better appreciate what is involved.

That way we might all be less quick to criticise a jockey on social media outlets. Myself included.

There are countless more jockeys who ride to win than the odd one banned for doing the precise opposite. That despite the fact that the rewards for riding to lose can be far greater. And that’s where the sport has gone wrong. Like many others. For while ever you can make more money from losing than winning, you’ll always have cases like the recent one of Eddie Ahern.

Of whom his former agent Terry Norman said: “Eddie Ahern banned for 10 years. Probably one of the most gifted riders I’ve seen. Shame he decided to get greedy.”

When racing is in the dock, do not sweep its sins under the carpet. They have a habit, like fleas hiding in the shagpile, of coming back to bite you on the bum.

 

For decades there has been a “nudge, nudge.. wink, wink… say no more” attitude prevalent in racing. More so than in any other sport I have encountered.

It reminds me of the days when I covered Wimbledon. When everyone knew which players were having sexual relations with fellow players of the same sex. But, like Basil Fawlty and the war, it was a case of “don’t mention it.” Well that was the 1970’s and attitudes to homosexuality were very different then. We’ve all moved on, thankfully.

Much of the “shock, horror” expressed about recent scandals in horse racing has been deserving of a Laurence Olivier award. People were not so much shocked at the dubious actions of the few. They were shocked because they were caught and punished.

Al Zarooni will never again train horses in the UK and, subject to an appeal regarding his ten year ban from racing, Eddie Ahern must find alternative employment.

Is Al Zarooni the only trainer to use banned drugs? Not on your life. Is Eddie Ahern the only jockey to ensure a horse does not win a race? Dream on.

But there are many more impressive acts of professionalism by jockeys taking place every day.

And they are all deserving of the coverage granted to Frankie Dettori.

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