Racing: Dittman pursues global ambition: The strong hand of 'The Enforcer' may attract second looks from the stewards in the spring. Richard Edmondson reports

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The Independent Online
HE HAS changed his name, and now he wants to make it, worldwide. Mick Dittman, perhaps the best jockey operating south of the equator, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his countrymen Scobie Breasley, George Moore and Bill Williamson and translate his domination of Australian racing to recognition in the northern hemisphere.

Born with the christian names Leonard Ross 42 years ago, Dittman is now known by either his adopted name or as 'The Enforcer', courtesy of his ability to wring the very last from his mounts.

This particular credential did much to attract the attention of Robert Sangster, for whom Dittman will ride in Britain for a portion of the summer. If this liaison flourishes, Dittman may return for a full season in 1994.

Dittman's decision to remove himself from Australian racing, and interrupt his never-ending story of success in the Antipodes, has surprised many. He is now one of that continent's top earners following a less than spoilt upbringing.

The son of a farm labourer, Dittman is from the Queensland bush town of Westwood, which is the sort of outpost, complete with large spider and frightened locals, depicted in certain lager advertisements on the television.

Six times the champion jockey in his home state, and three times the title winner in New South Wales, Dittman has recently been touched by a sense of fulfilment. In racing terms, he has seen it all and got the T-shirt.

'I seem to have reached the point where I've done everything there is to be done here in Australia,' he says. 'I'd like to go to England and ride Classic winners there to make it the pinnacle of my career.

'It doesn't seem to matter how well you do on your own dunghill, you've got to establish yourself globally and England seems to be the place they all recognise. And trying to establish myself at the top of the tree in England would be a hell of a challenge.'

That will not be the only challenge facing Dittman, who will need to take some style counsel before he reaches these shores. Finishes in Australia tend to be reminiscent of a wind farm, as jockeys attend to their mounts with rotating sweeps of the whip.

'The Enforcer' insists that the majority of these swipes land just short of his partners' bodies, but this technique will test the eyesight of most of the stewards around the nation.

'I will have to adapt to the style of riding to a certain extent, but I don't see that as being a problem,' Dittman says. 'It's not something that will come straight away, but I hope to pick it up pretty quickly. It's like the old saying 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do'.'

Some of these home boys will be familiar to Dittman from international events, but the settings will be fresh. The jockey's only appreciation of riding here is via the video.

Dittman's manoeuvres on foreign soil, which are expected to last three months, will be sandwiched between commitments at home. Before he arrives here at Easter, the jockey will cultivate the rich late-season prizes of Sydney and Melbourne, and his mind will never be far away from a partnership with Naturalism, second in November's Japan Cup. Dittman needs to be back in Australia to prepare the horse for this year's Tokyo race.

In the meantime, he is hoping to find other performers of merit in the yard of Peter Chapple-Hyam, Sangster's main trainer. 'A lot will depend on the quality of horses in Peter Chapple-Hyam's stable, but there are other factors like my earning capacity, whether I like living in England and whether they like me as their rider,' Dittman says.

'But I'm looking forward to it as I've always had an idea that I'd like to give it a try. Once you get among the sort of horses and trainers there are over there, and you get the opportunities to ride in France and America - all the best horses and all the big races - that's what makes the whole thing exciting.'

(Photograph omitted)

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