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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past