Frankie Dettori leads the race for the jockeys' championship today for the first time this season in what is becoming one of the most fiercely contested title races in years. Dettori has spent more time in the air in the last month than most jockeys spend in the sauna - flying from meeting to meeting in pursuit of winners or catapulting himself from the saddle in celebration.
The Italian, who was champion in 1994 and 1995, started the day level on 102 winners with title holder Kieren Fallon thanks to a four-timer at Kempton on Wednesday night. He pushed one ahead of the Irishman thanks to a 13-1 double from three rides at Yarmouth, where Fallon replied with a winner in the last.
The easy option from there would have been to make the short journey back home to Newmarket but instead Dettori flew on to the somewhat less palatial surroundings of Folkestone's evening meeting for six more mounts which yielded one success and one hard-fought,short-head defeat.
Fallon, the six-times champion, on the other hand, did not push on to the Kent course on the first day back from a four-day suspension.
Today, though, when quite bizarrely there is only one afternoon Flat meeting - and that a partial all-weather card at Lingfield - Fallon is taking in both that venue and Newmarket's evening card, while Dettori rests himself for the sunset stint.
The momentum, though, remains with Dettori, who has ridden 26 winners in the last fortnight to Fallon's nine. Seb Sanders, meanwhile, has also sustained a remarkable run of success that has brought him to within shouting distance of his first championship. The 32-year-old rode an amazing 44 winners in July and has notched 23 in the last 14 days. A win on Optimal at Brighton last night means he now stands on 98 for the season, five behind Dettori.
It was a disappointing start to the day for Dettori yesterday as the 4-9 shot Munaddam was turned over by the Richard Hills-ridden Ghurra in the maiden. But it was not long before he was back in the groove.
After getting Neville Callaghan's Fort McHenry home in the claimer, he followed up on Glebe Garden for Michael Bell in the fillies' handicap. Fallon had to wait until the maiden handicap to get on the scoresheet but he did so in convincing style on the Paul Cole- trained Science Academy.
Coral have cut Dettori to 3-1 for the championship, from 6-1, although Fallon is still odds-on at 1-2. "Although Kieren is still the one to beat, Frankie and Seb Sanders are in flying form. It promises to be the most exciting championship ever," Coral's David Stevens said.
Ladbrokes, after a single bet of £3,000 for Dettori at 4-1, now go just 3-1. Fallon began yesterday at 1-3 but was soon shunted out to 2-5 and is now a 1-2 shot to retain his title.
FLAT JOCKEYS CHAMPIONSHIP: Coral: 1-2 Kieren Fallon, 3-1 Frankie Dettori, 6-1 Seb Sanders, 10-1 Darryll Holland. William Hill: 4-9 Fallon, 7-2 Dettori, 6-1 Sanders, 8-1 Holland. Ladbrokes: 1-2 Fallon, 3-1 Dettori, 6-1 Sanders, 8-1 D Holland.
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