With his usual perfect timing and showmanship, Frankie Dettori made yesterday's anniversary afternoon at Lingfield something of an occasion. Twenty years ago, when the Surrey track earned its niche in the sport's history by staging Britain's first meeting on an all-weather surface, Dettori rode the last winner of the afternoon. Yesterday he repeated the feat with bright blue knobs on, for his finale success on Padmina notched a four-timer on the day and his 100th of the season.
The Italian treated the crowd, who came through the turnstiles at the 1989 price of a fiver, to a flying dismount to mark his first century for three years. Nine others, though, have breached the barrier before him this time, headed by Ryan Moore, who finished the afternoon on 175 and is so far clear that he has already been given his champion's trophy.
Way back when, Dettori was a boy wonder; now, at the age of 38, he is a weighing-room elder statesman with the highest profile of any jockey and an international schedule. He will ride today and tomorrow at Newmarket before flying to Australia for the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, and thence to the States for the £25.5m Breeders' Cup meeting in California.
Yet he still retains his enthusiasm for achievement and even little landmarks, like yesterday's repeat performance. Of the 11 riders who scored on the 12-race card in 1989, three are still in action and Dettori was the only one to return to the track yesterday.
And the century, and with it his third place in the jockeys' championship, which starts and ends (tomorrow week) with the turf season, are important. "I thought when I got up if I could nick a couple today it would be great," he said, "but this is beyond my dreams. Four winners in a day is never easy and it's my stable I have to thank. They've all worked really hard to get me to the 100."
The stable, of course, is Godolphin, in whose royal blue Dettori rode Baila Me, Moonlife, Sirocco Breeze and Padmina to victory. But another success (he has six more rides booked before heading abroad) could be vital as he may yet lose one of the 100. Delegator tested positive for a banned substance after winning the Celebration Mile at Goodwood and may be demoted.
Delegator is one of Dettori's Breeders' Cup mounts; the colt contests the Turf Mile. Before that, the rider's attention will be focused on trying for his first Melbourne Cup on the Blues' Kirklees, one of the outsiders for the historic two-mile contest. "I've conquered most of the big ones," he said, "but I've ridden in this one 10 or 11 times and the best I've managed is second."
Dettori, engaging and open with his public and a top-class professional, is one of the best weighing-room ambassadors. Yesterday one of its quirkier former members found the doors still firmly shut. Darren Williams, having served a three-month suspension after admitting passing information for reward and associating with a disqualified person at a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel hearing in June, had his application for a riding licence turned down by the British Horseracing Authority.
And the BHA indicated a tougher line in future over scrutiny of the suitability of those who wish to operate under its jurisdiction. Detailed reasons for opposition to Williams' application have yet to be released but broadly the three grounds were mendacity, obstructiveness and lack of remorse. The decision is open to appeal.
"We consider it fundamental to the integrity of the sport," said BHA spokesman Paul Struthers yesterday, "that those who seek to corrupt racing no longer assume that they can simply return as a licensed individual once they have served a period of disqualification. They must establish that they are cogniscent of the seriousness of the offences they have committed, that they no longer pose an ongoing threat to the integrity of the sport and that they are a 'fit and proper' person to hold a licence.
"We plan to introduce enhanced suitability criteria for all licensed and registered persons and, through the annual penalties review process, to significantly increase the penalties for serious breaches of the Rules of Racing, both of which should be in place in early 2010."
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Himalya (3.35 Newmarket) Far too fresh on his belated three-year-old debut and then taken off his feet by more battle-hardened rivals over the minimum trip. A stiff six furlongs and a drop in class should make it third time lucky.
Trumpstoo (3.15 Wetherby) Only ordinary on the Flat but looks a better prospect as a jumper – he's a scopy individual – and made a winning debut, despite showing inexperience. He will be slicker this time and can follow up.
One to watch
Silent Majority (E Dunlop) is a notably attractive individual and will have benefited from his pleasing introduction at Doncaster last week. He should not go into winter quarters a maiden.
Where the money's going
Chapoturgeon (P Nicholls) was the mover yesterday in the ante-post market for next month's the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, backed from 10-1 to 7-1 with the sponsors.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Hunting Tower (3.45 Wetherby)