Racing: Rejection a setback for Dettori's ambition

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The Independent Online
JOCKEYS are often guilty of choosing the wrong horse in a race, but yesterday Lanfranco Dettori was found to have made a far more damaging decision. He chose the wrong job, writes Richard Edmondson.

The young Italian rider, who lost his position as stable jockey to Luca Cumani when he decided to pursue a post in Hong Kong, was told yesterday that his application to ride in the colony later this year had been refused. From here on, Dettori will just be another freelance rider.

The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club's rejection of Dettori was not a total surprise. It is believed Club officials felt the exuberant Dettori's lifestyle would not be ideal for the image of racing in the colony, while his prospects were hardly enhanced earlier this month when he was cautioned by police for being in possession of a small amount of cocaine.

The rider himself, who was the youngest jockey to reach 100 winners in a season since Lester Piggott, will now attempt to earn recognition for more positive reasons. 'I'm disappointed, but I shall now be concentrating on building my career in Britain and Europe,' he said yesterday. 'I would still like to ride in Hong Kong some day.'

Dettori's agent, Mattie Cowing, added: 'Frankie will shake himself out of this setback and get on with his work. He is doing very well at present, and I should say there's not been a better freelance around for years.'

For two other jockeys, though, the RHKJC meeting broke up in more satisfactory circumstances. Dean McKeown and Gary Carter had their licence applications granted and will be heading east when the new season begins in September.

McKeown, who is married with three daughters, will take up a contract with Geoff Lane, an Australian trainer. 'They like a bit of stability out there, which probably helped my application,' he said.

McKeown's move will sever one of British racing's more successful alliances. 'I've got a great job with Mark Johnston (the Middleham trainer),' McKeown said. 'He's a trainer who's really going places and it's a shame to break up the partnership, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime.'

Carter, a former dual champion apprentice, will link up with local trainer Derek Cruz, the brother of international jockey Tony. The 27-year-old has secured a three-year contract, dependent on obtaining a new licence each year.