Dettori prepared to slow down on sand

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The Independent Online
RACING : Adrian Maguire celebrated reaching 100 winners for the season yesterday, but Lanfranco Dettori decided to stop chasing big figures. Both seemed somewhat perplexed by the move to switch back to counting winners instead of cash in deciding the jockeys' championships.

At Lingfield, Dettori announced that he is to cut back on the number of days he spends riding on the all-weather tracks in order to prime himself to defend his Flat riders' title in a new contest which begins next month.

Dettori, who has been riding on the winter sand circuit virtually without a break since 2 January, will reduce his appearances in that sphere to "about once a week".

The Italian, whose decision to ride through the early months of 1994 brought him his first championship, has now discovered that the 23 victories he has registered this season are unlikely to count. Under the proposals being put to jockeys by their association's secretary, Michael Caulfield, separate turf and all-weather championships will be established.

"I've decided to slow down radically," Dettori said. "I will concentrate now on my stable [John Gosden] and all the preparation for the coming season.

"I don't know where I am. I feel as if I'm in no man's land. I don't know if it is winners, or prize money, or the turf, or all-weather, or both."

Dettori's decision is unlikely to influence his great rival Jason Weaver, who narrowly leads the champion on winners this year.

"I'm going to carry on. I'm going out for the Young Jockeys' Championship in Japan on 4-5 March. After that there is about 10 days with nothing much going on, and I might use that to recharge my batteries, before having a couple of days on the all-weather before the turf season starts," Weaver said.

Caulfield is canvassing his membership on reverting to a winners-count format. Richard Dunwoody, who is still 11 winners ahead of Maguire despite being half-way through a 30-day ban, is spending part of his suspension in Dubai sounding out the British Flat riders who are spending the winter there. They are likely to find few objectors to the scrapping of an unpopular prize-money system which Caulfield has admitted should have been introduced "after more detailed consultations with jockeys".

David Nicholson, the champion jumps trainer, is one of many that has spoken out against the cash count. "It's like anything else. Runs on the board count and balls in the back of the net count," he said yesterday.

Maguire, his stable jockey, said: "I thought they should have given it a go for a season instead of whipping round like they have done, but if that's the case, that's it."

Jamie Osborne said: "I was in favour of doing it by money, but if the consensus is to go back to winners then that's fine by me."

But Norman Williamson commented: "I hope it does change. I've always thought the number of winners was the best thing and if you want to be champion jockey you have to travel up and down the country in search of winners and not just ride a few at the bigmeetings. So it's good news as far as I'm concerned."

William Hill, the bookmaking firm which has sponsored the riders' championships this year, are likely to review their support. The company's David Hood said: "We are keen to back the jockeys whatever they decide but this would be another case of moving the goal posts and we'd have to take a long hard look. All bets struck on a 12-month prize-money championship will be settled on those terms."