He failed a random drugs test after a race at Longchamp in September. The offending substance is believed to be cocaine.
Dettori accepted the punishment. His solicitor spoke on behalf of the jockey. Christopher Stewart-Moore said:-
“I have spoken to Frankie since the announcement was made and he has told me he fully accepts France Galop’s decision. He also accepts that he has let down the sport he loves and all those associated with it, as well as the wider public. But most of all, and this is his greatest regret, he has let down his wife and children.”
Dettori recently split from his long term employers, Godolphin, and planned to seek work as a self employed jockey. Now he must keep himself fit until next Spring.
Former Grand National winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald spoke about Frankie’s future: “Racing is in shock at this news. The French have very strict rules as to what you can have in your body before a race. Some over the counter medicines in the UK are on their banned list. In the UK jockeys are tested regularly. The tests are happening more and more. We want to show our sport to be as clean as it is.”
Jonathan Powell helped Frankie write his autobiography. He said: “He has a long ban coming but he is still the best to hire top gun available. At any time now he could say I am giving up on racing. It would be a terrible thing if he left racing. He became champion flat jockey with the biggest number of winners since Sir Gordon Richards. He’ll not be champion jockey again but Frankie is about quality not quantity.
“This is entirely out of character. Frankie is a lovely, warm and generous guy. He enjoys drinking, he enjoys eating. He is a very good dad to his 5 kids. He has great peaks of temperament. He enjoys tremendous highs and he has, terrible terrible lows.”
Jonathan Powell is right. There is another Frankie Dettori. The one behind the mask worn for the viewing public. The other side of Frankie, the smiling jockey known for his flying dismounts and kissing the TV camera. He can be moody and tempestuous away from the cameras. One employee of Godolphin had the specific unwritten task of keeping Frankie calm and cheering him up when the dark moods took control.
But there is no doubt that his public image, and his undisputed skills in the saddle, have done wonders for the overall public image of horse racing.
The only previous blemish in his career was when he was cautioned by police when found to be possession of cocaine after attending the 1993 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday. He was then a young man.
Today he is 41, and while the 6 month ban prevents him from riding during the winter, it could have come at a worse time of the year. Frankie Dettori will be able to ride again in May of next year, giving him plenty of time to find freelance rides at the Epsom Derby meeting and Royal Ascot.
I feel sure that racing journalists and TV producers will be approaching Frankie for an exclusive ‘mea culpa’ like interview. While I have always suspected that he suffers from bouts of clinical depression, I don’t envisage him admitting to such a condition and I don’t see him appearing on the Jeremy Kyle TV show!
I expect Frankie will be back in action next year. Ever leaner, fit and raring to ride winners for those trainers who will queue up to hire him.