Dettori hugs put squeeze on Jockey Club

Richard Edmondson on the controversial aftermath to Saturday's 2,000 Guineas
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The Independent Online
Racing's rules looked in danger of having the modern relevance of the Domesday Book after the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday.

Mark Of Esteem's dogged success, Godolphin's fourth consecutive British Classic, was drowned out first by the clamour over Lanfranco Dettori's on-course dismount and then the penalisation of the first three jockeys home for whip offences.

Mark Tompkins, the trainer of the short-head second, Even Top, considered, but last night rejected, the idea of appealing following Dettori's post- race performance. The Italian vaulted out of the saddle when he heard the result of the photo-finish (the amateur sociologists put this down to Latin exuberance) and hugged Godolphin's head-lad, John Davies. This routine was repeated in the winners' enclosure, when the man in the embrace was Sheikh Mohammed.

Tompkins did not think much of this display. "Frankie is completely irresponsible doing that and it needs stopping," he said. "You didn't see Lester doing it and Philip [Robinson, Even Top's jockey] doesn't do it because he's working for me and the owner, not Chipperfield's Circus."

In addition, it was illegal. Rule 160 (iv) outlines that a horse can be disqualified if its rider touches anyone before weighing in, a measure designed to stop tampering with weights. Dettori very visibly transgressed the rule (even if there was no mischief in his actions) as do many jockeys in this more unashamedly tactile age. Kisses, hugs and back-slapping in the winners' enclosure are all part of racing today. But while the letter of the law may be against him, it is almost unthinkable that Dettori and Mark Of Esteem should be disqualified.

This rule, according to Malcolm Wallace, Director of Regulation at the Jockey Club, was "under review". In fact, just about everything bar what time he was next going to the lavatory seemed to be "under review".

The suspension of the first three jockeys also gave the rule book the look of the Beezer. Riders make a mockery of the rules in big races, hitting their mounts far beyond the legal guideline, as the potential benefits far outweigh the penalty. Either the whip rules should be amended or horses thrown out for the misdemeanour of the pilot; anything to get out of the laughable middle ground we inhabit now.

Dettori hit his mount 16 times, Robinson 13 and Jason Weaver 11, which, even though it is a small sample, seems to suggest the more you hit the horse the faster it goes.

The whip rule was modified in no small measure due to public disapproval of little horseys being beaten with sticks. It is ironic that the occasions when it is most flouted are the major race days, the contests that attract the floating viewer and largest audiences. Malcolm Wallace said this area of the rule book was "under review".

He was not the only official to be harried yesterday. Nick Lees, Newmarket's clerk of the course, was tackled on the irregular state of the ground. Barry Hills referred to the middle of the track, ground on which his Royal Applause performed disappointingly, as "a disaster".

The watering system at Headquarters was not developed at NASA. It is a piece of pipe with holes which is moved around the course and which seems to create eccentric going conditions. On Saturday, the fastest ground was the strip up the near rail charted by Mark Of Esteem.

Geoffrey Gibbs, the official handicapper, does not normally become gladiatorial with his fellow mandarins, but there was little disguising his disgust as he tried to piece together the form of the race. "It is disappointing when championship races are run on ground which does not appear to give every horse in the race a decent chance," he said. "It looks as though the horses in the middle of the course were at a disadvantage."

Lees acknowledged the criticism as he pulled up his ladder. He said it was down to the groundsman, and is probably putting the watering system "under review".