Lanfranco Dettori, the champion jockey, may not ride for several months following an operation yesterday on his left elbow, broken in a fall at Newbury on Thursday. He will miss not just next week's Royal Ascot meeting, but probably all the high-summer showpieces, and his chance of retaining his championship is slim, at best.
Dettori was injured when the filly Shawanni threw him in the paddock. The broken bones in his elbow were wired together in an operation yesterday from which Dettori emerged unconscious, but comfortable.
"His spirit's all right but he's going to be out for some time, you can't come back from that in a hurry," John Gosden, Dettori's main employer, said yesterday. Dr Michael Turner, the Jockey Club's chief medical adviser, said: "It is always difficult to tell how long these injuries will take to heal without seeing the X-rays, but we usually expect the bone to heal in eight to 12 weeks. It seems a very similar injury to the one sustained by Adrian Maguire, but Frankie should be able to move the elbow and keep fit."
On the basis of Dr Turner's most optimistic estimate, Dettori will miss Newmarket's July meeting and Glorious Goodwood. Any longer on the sidelines, and York's Ebor meeting would also pass him by. Since most top jockeys would expect to ride both afternoon and evening during this time, he will also miss dozens of humdrum assignments which form the foundation of a title challenge.
The bookies refused to bet on the Flat championship at the start of the season, in the belief that Dettori could not be beaten. After a slow start, though, the Italian was still 10 winners behind Jason Weaver, who had ridden 71 before racing yesterday, and both Weaver and Pat Eddery (66 wins) have every chance of being champion.
Two more riders received bad news yesterday. Daryll Holland's lost his appeal against the Hong Kong Jockey Club's refusal to renew his riding licence, and for the moment his career in the colony is over. Gerard Mosse lost an appeal against a riding ban, and will miss the ride on Ashkalani in Tuesday's St James's Palace Stakes. Michael Kinane will take his place.
Norman Williamson is another jockey with uncertainty in his life. Williamson has announced that he is to end his association with Kim Bailey in order to ride freelance in the forthcoming jumps season. Williamson completed the double of the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle for Bailey at the 1995 Cheltenham Festival.
Dettori's misfortune will overshadow today's racing, which is lacklustre in any case. The Derby finished a hopeless second to football seven days ago, and in the face of a bigger attraction at Wembley today, the turf seems, perhaps wisely, to have given up the struggle.
All three of York's televised races are desperately tight handicaps, none more so than the 23-runner opener. There appears to be plenty of pace against the far rail, though, where Daawe should carry them along and set the race up for Plum First (1.45). He had a troubled run at Catterick last time, but still ran his best race of the year in the blinkers which remain in place.
SKILLINGTON (nap 2.15), who made all at Pontefract last time, gives backers their best chance of a return in the next, but the day's richest event, the William Hill Trophy, matches the opener for impenetrability. However, it may be that Mick Easterby has managed to slip Blessingindisguise (next best 2.45) in on a generous mark.
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