Dettori case 'does not mean drugs are rife'

Newmarket is no 'den of iniquity', says racing's chaplain on fears raised by jockey's positive test

There was no mistaking the spectre at the feast, when the Flat racing elite convened for the Cartier Awards on Tuesday. Those who had gathered to salute an equine paragon, Frankel, instead found themselves digesting a sudden humiliation for the most celebrated member of their own community. The discovery that Frankie Dettori had failed a drugs test, at Longchamp in September, left his peers agog and aghast.

Many sensibly deferred their own judgement until learning that of the French racing authorities, who seem likely to give Dettori a worldwide, six-month ban when he attends a hearing next week. But whatever pity or irritation is being reserved for the sport's falling idol, others were already prepared to testify that Dettori's aberration – if proven – would only lend a sensational veneer to chronic problems in the less glamorous reaches of the racing workforce.

Kieren Fallon, after himself serving bans of six and 18 months for consecutive positive tests in France, notoriously depicted Newmarket as a hotbed of drug abuse. Guests at the Cartier Awards added their own, anecdotal evidence of stable staff trapped between addiction and low wages; of toxic compounds to cheapen cocaine; of depression and suicides.

Yesterday, however, these tales were placed in due perspective by a man devoted to healing any such malaise in the headquarters of the British Turf. Graham Locking, chaplain to its horseracing community, is vexed by lurid distortion of Newmarket's image. "A few years ago, we got together everyone who might be able to help establish whether incidence of alcoholism and drug-taking was worse in racing," Rev Locking said. "The Samaritans, the police, Racing Welfare, drug rehabilitation and medical people, the lot. And in the end we concluded that it was exactly the same here as the average across the nation. Remember you're not talking about a monochrome town. We have two airbases just down the road, a university. Of course we have problems, the same as anywhere – but it would be very wrong to portray Newmarket as some den of iniquity."

Locking's vocation has previously embraced depressed urban communities – from the East End of London, to Glasgow, to Sheffield during the miners' strike – and he stressed the overall decency and morale among his flock. "The vast majority of people working in racing are leading normal lives, working hard, trying to make good decisions and good choices," he said. "But people are people, wherever you go. Some will cope better with stress than others."

Locking urged that an obligation of fairness to Newmarket should now be extended to its most famous resident. "Nobody knows the journey people travel," he said. "Nobody should be pointing fingers at Frankie Dettori, or anyone else. It's the same as with Tiger Woods, it's the tall poppy syndrome. People are set up as heroes, but as soon as they are shown to be human, everyone jumps on the bandwagon."

Few ever detected any flaw in Frankel, of course. Yesterday the unbeaten champion's eligibility, in his new role as a stallion, was formally measured by the announcement of his stud fee next spring: an eye-watering £125,000. On the basis that he covers around 100 mares – with the usual proviso of "no foal, no fee" – he could generate £12m in his first season at Banstead Manor.

As befits a champion whose career ultimately obtained a fairly ceremonial quality, Frankel bestrode the 22nd Cartier Awards. He became the first to win Horse of the Year in consecutive years, and first to win five awards in all. "We have been truly blessed by this horse," said Prince Khalid Abdullah's racing manager, Lord Grimthorpe. "He has touched our lives like no other."

Frankel's trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, remained too unwell to take his share of the plaudits in London. But he has always stressed the role of others in the story, and an Award of Merit was duly made to "Team Frankel", from those who raised the colt at Juddmonte Farms to some of Cecil's most trusted lieutenants at Warren Place: notably his assistant, Mike Marshall; his head girl, Dee Deacon; and Frankel's groom, Sandeep Gauravaram. Here was proper evidence of a community that could take immense pride in its life and work.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Havin' A Good Time (2.20 Southwell) Having started off a fairly low base, this unexposed young filly is now going places fast.

Next best

Royal Bajan (12.20 Southwell) Faces competition for the lead but could be value tried in blinkers today.

One to watch

Utopian (Nick Gifford) Did well to close for fourth at Lingfield on Tuesday having jumped poorly.

Where the money's going

Triolo D'Alene is 14-1 from 20-1 with the sponsors for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Financial Accountant - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity is available for a par...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This care provider provides hom...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum