Racing: Sangster calls in Dittman: The man who brought Steve Cauthen to Britain plans to import the talents of Australia's leading jockey: Richard Edmondson on the problems over style with the stick that may ensue with the arrival of 'The Enforcer'

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WHILE the departure of 'The Kid' is about to remove one international jockey from British racing, the arrival of 'The Enforcer' will lend another cosmopolitan angle to our racecourses. Steve Cauthen is out after 14 years, but Mick Dittman, the top Australian jockey, is about to embark on his first British season.

Dittman, 42, the Queensland champion on six occasions and three-time title winner in New South Wales, has long been admired by Robert Sangster, for whom he will ride after completing the Australian season at Easter.

'We haven't signed anything yet, but he'll be coming for a three- month trial period for both of us from the day after Easter until 31 July,' Sangster, who is in Barbados, said yesterday. 'Then he may stay on or go back.'

Dittman's success during this probationary term may depend largely on how he moderates his riding technique. His method of cajoling a horse round Antipodean courses has earned him the nickname of 'The Enforcer', and his windmill work with a whip is hardly likely to find favour with the stewards here.

Sangster believes his man capable of modifying his style without reducing effectiveness. 'He is a very strong finisher but I'm sure he can adapt,' he said. 'He certainly doesn't mark a horse.

'I went for Dittman because I thought he was the best available. I travel a lot and I see people in their respective countries, and I think he is an exceptional rider.

'He has an excellent percentage of win and placed horses to rides, the best in the country, and I think he's probably in the George Moore league.'

The owner was also moved to bracket Dittman with other outstanding Australian riders who have stamped their reputations in Europe down the years. 'Dittman's a good judge of pace and the different demands here didn't stop (Ron) Hutchinson and (Bill) Williamson or (Scobie) Breasley,' he said. 'They all adapted quickly.'

As have other imports Sangster has used. When Cauthen first arrived in Britain in 1979 it was to wear the emerald green, royal blue and white silks, while others to operate here have been Brent Thomson, who rode for a season with Barry Hills in 1985, and Bill Shoemaker, who partnered Hawaiian Sound into second place in the Derby of 1978.

Sangster takes pride in the fact that he was among the forerunners for arranging, and making a success of, partnerships with men from outside the British circuit. 'I suppose it's like football 20 years ago,' he said. 'Managers never went to Europe or South America then for players, but now nearly every top team has its quota of Europeans.'

The owner can even claim an early link with this year's champion jockey, Michael Roberts. 'I remember taking a retainer on Michael Roberts when he first came to ride for Gavin Hunter about 15 years ago,' he said. 'I wrote to all the trainers and nobody wanted to use him. I think it takes time to get used to these people, but if it works out like Michael Roberts, Dittman will be an investment it's well worthwhile getting involved in.'

Sangster further believes the jockey's recruitment will help fill the void created by Cauthen's removal from British racing. 'With Steve sadly looking as though he's going to retire I think the sport is affected,' he said. 'Dittman will help pull in the crowds because I think he'll become very popular.'

It can be assumed, however, that when the Australian arrives, he will not be met at the airport by Michael Caulfield, the secretary of the Jockeys' Association. Caulfield, and many of Britain's riders, have become increasingly dissatisfied in recent years about the number of mounts snapped up by foreign jockeys.

'We are always concerned by the continuing influx,' Caulfield said yesterday. 'It is important that we promote home-grown talent and it is something we have taken up with the Jockey Club.

'When an international jockey like Michael Roberts takes 1,000 rides in a season it has considerable knock-on effect on those lower down the ladder.'

With this reception awaiting him, Dittman may have some idea of how his countryman George Moore felt after a rewarding year with Noel Murless in 1967. Moore won three Classics and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes that year, but then had to return home after receiving a number of threats on his life.

(Photograph omitted)

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