Racing: Dettori dismisses drugs ban in Japan

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LANFRANCO DETTORI has sidestepped a confrontation with Japanese officials over their strict rules on drugs by declaring that he had never intended to ride in that country's richest race, the Japan Cup, on 28 November.

Dettori had been widely expected to ride Italian-trained Misil in the invitation race, but learned yesterday that his police caution earlier this year for possession of a small amount of cocaine would preclude him receiving a licence to ride from the Japan Racing Association.

'Due to other foreign riding commitments, I have not accepted to ride a horse in the Japan Cup this year,' Dettori claimed.

'I have not applied for a licence to ride in Japan and accordingly have not been denied a licence. I have not applied for an entry visa to Japan and accordingly have not been denied any such visa.

'At no time have I ever been charged with any legal offence whatsoever.'

Dettori is well known in Japan, having twice won the Young Jockeys World Championship which is annually staged in that country.

But because of the drug incident, which also cost him a chance to ride in Hong Kong, he is not being invited to this year's competition. Cash Asmussen could be in line to replace him aboard Misil in the Japan Cup.

Dettori is not being singled out. Pat Valenzuela, the American jockey best known for his partnership with Arazi but who has twice lost his riding licence because of drug problems, would not have been able to partner Fraise in the Japan Cup. The horse, exhausted after finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf, has been pulled out of the race in any case.

At Cheltenham yesterday, Adrian Maguire, who had missed two days' racing after bruising a hip, enjoyed success with King Of The Lot, his first ride back.

The main event, the Steel Plate And Sections Young Chasers Championship Final, went to the small Lambourn stable of Merrita Jones through Light Veneer. It was her first success as a public trainer.