RACING COMMENTARY : A new routine to end the boredom

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The Independent Online
Racing repeats itself with the regularity of a saloon bar bore. On Saturday, following weeks of overblown build-up, tales of good work on the gallops and the influence of the draw, the Lincoln went to a 33- 1 shot. It usually ends like this.

The Lincoln is an awful race which supplies an early-season lining for the pockets of its sponsor, the bookmakers William Hill. Neither they, nor the clever clogs who turn up in the media attempting to unravel the race, should be listened to.

The handicap, though, did at least provide reward for Kevin Darley, for long an unsung member of the jockeys' room. Darley will be hoping that 1995 does not follow the pattern of years past in another area, and that Celtic Swing is not toppled like other tall trees before him.

This anticipation should be enjoyed. Reality is rarely as potent as the imagination, and Celtic Swing's reputation means he will have to win the Triple Crown, the school sack race and the National Lottery to satisfy.

The other riding performance of the weekend came from Lanfranco Dettori, whose rhythmic display to deny Pat Eddery in the Doncaster Shield killed suggestions that he owes his championship merely to the number of rides he took last season.

Despite his successes and light-hearted image on the television screen, Dettori is a far more troubled man than you might imagine. The jockey was in Dubai last week, advertising his dentist's skills for the many broadcast interviews. Off camera, though, he inevitably slips to a thoughtful countenance.

Interviews of any depth are no longer granted to reporters. Dettori acknowledges that he owes much of his success to the British newspapers' trait of praising an emerging talent to the heavens. Now he does not want to fall into the other well-established section, of heroes under attack, and does not give himself the opportunity of stepping into a spring-loaded lasso. "Let's keep it all quiet," he tells inquisitors. "For a while at least."

Dettori will, of course, be riding many of the horses trained for Sheikh Mohammed by John Gosden this season. When the Stanley House horses venture northwards, however, and Dettori is unavailable, the little-heralded John Carroll will have his share of mounts. "I like John because he has good hands and respect up North," Gosden said in Dubai this week. "He gets room from other jockeys who wouldn't give the time of day if I sent a young nightclubber from the South swanking his way up there."

Dubai, to borrow a Stateside adjective, is a happening place. When Robert Sangster returned from the Emirates on Friday he travelled first-class to Heathrow fortified by caviar and Dom Perignon. For part of the journey he read a piece about the world's most powerful owner: an epithet that used to be his, but now belongs to the man who has made Dubai racing-conscious, Sheikh Mohammed.

Not that the pair are dire enemies. Sangster has a handful of juveniles at the Sheikh's Al Quoz stables, two-year-olds which were foaled in Australia and then brought to the Middle East. They have yet to see a traditional winter. And it shows. "They're so muscly and way ahead of anything I've ever seen," Simon Crisford, one of the Sheikh's racing managers, said. "They're like bulls." They also look like horses worth following after they move to Peter Chapple-Hyam's yard in May.

Sheikh Mohammed himself will be sending over about 30 horses from his Godolphin enterprise, which act as a sandwich board for racing in his homeland. With Dubai's oil supplies due to peter out in 25 years, the Sheikh is attempting to establish a business infrastructure.

There are already international tournaments for tennis, snooker, golf and powerboat racing. The latest edifice is a hospital so well-equipped that it would be an instructive stopping-off point for Virginia Bottomley. The new facility, however, is not for human beings but for horses.

The hospital, on a site which was nothing but dust 12 months ago, has an impressive array of state-of-the art equipment. One visit here and the vision of a trainer feeling the legs of his horse to diagnose a problem swirls down a plughole at the back of the brain. If you have to come back as an animal in another life, make sure it is as a horse, and make sure it is in Dubai.

One day Sheikh Mohammed would like to return a Derby winner to his country (especially as he now believes a breeding industry can be established). He denies unconditionally reports that he has bought a share in Celtic Swing, and expects his own colt, Pennekamp, to be a worthy adversary come Epsom in June.

It has always been said that the Derby is the one race the crown prince of Dubai would like to win, but he attempts to downplay its significance. "I have waited for the Derby for such a long time that I am now getting bored waiting," he said last week. Do not believe him.