RACING: Dittman aims to make impact in Britain

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The Independent Online

reports from Dubai

Stewards, and horses, throughout the land may become a little agitated this morning when they hear that Mick Dittman, "The Enforcer", is likely to be riding in Britain this summer.

One of Australia's finest jockeys, Dittman has earned his nickname with a physical technique that gets the most out of his mounts. He does not regard the whip as a last resort.

Dittman, who insists his image is more caricature than reality, was due to arrive in Britain last season to ride for Robert Sangster but had to withdraw when his wife, Maureen, was struck down by a brain tumour. Now that she has recovered, the 42-year-old is keen to prove himself in an arena in which his countrymen Scobie Breasley, Bill Williamson and Ron Hutchison excelled before him.

"It appeals to me, joining the ranks of jockeys like them," he said here yesterday as he prepared for tomorrow's International Jockeys' Challenge. "I've always wanted to give it a go, to get on some really good horses."

Good horses are made to some extent by good jockeys and there is little doubt that Dittman is among the top men in his game. He has ridden over 3,000 winners, including 85 Group Ones. Riding from his base on the Gold Coast in Queensland, he is one of the lite band of jockeys who travel all over Australia for major races. His greatest moments include victory in the Melbourne Cup on Gurner's Lane and Australian Derbys on Strawberry Road and Naturalism.

Dittman rode a winner for Sangster at Flemington on Saturday, and while he says he is happy to scrap it out for spare rides in Britain, he will travel there only on condition he has a reasonable flow of mounts provided by the man who owns Manton. As Sangster said yesterday that John Reid will continue to be first choice for his horses, most of which are trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, the quality of what remains is the main stumbling block concerning Dittmnan's visit. "I certainly don't want to put anyone's nose out of joint," the rider said.

That sentiment stretches to Britain's stewards, who will already be aware of the man's reputation with the stick. "I will have to change my style," Dittman said. "But I don't see that being a big problem."

The draw for the International Jockeys' Challenge was not particularly kind to the Australian and he was made a 16-1 shot by Ladbrokes to win the title. The European pairing of Thierry Jarnet and Lanfranco Dettori are reckoned to have come out best from the lottery, while the third favourite is Richard Hills, who has spent the last three winters riding in the Emirates and represents the home side along with the Irishman Johnny Murtagh.

On the flat dirt track of Nad Al Sheba that suits them so well the Americans will take some beating, however. Chris McCarron, who won the individual title 12 months ago is back to defend his title in tandem with the man who has been champion jockey in the United States six times, Pat Day.