The racing community holds its collective breath as its most famous face blushingly prepares for the possibility of humiliation and suspension. Frankie Dettori, whose failed drugs test at Longchamp in September caused such a sensation when disclosed last week, must appear before a medical panel in France tomorrow. If failing to exculpate himself, he could receive a worldwide, six-month suspension.
Any punishment, however, would be reserved to a separate disciplinary committee. It is understood that efforts are being made to dovetail the two processes, but Dettori is not guaranteed to learn his fate on the day. Certainly he will take the view that if the worst must happen, "then 'twere well it were done quickly".
He already stands at a crossroads in his career, having ended an 18-year association with the Godolphin stable only last month. If his new, freelance chapter must be deferred, then the sooner any suspension gets underway, the less Dettori will miss next spring. An immediate six-month ban would cause him to miss the first Classics of the domestic season, but he would be back in time for the Investec Derby meeting and Royal Ascot.
At the best of times, of course, Dettori would barely register on the midwinter scene, and the reappearance at Haydock on Saturday of two former Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, Long Run and Imperial Commander, completes the jumps season's progression into top gear. And while he postponed the comebacks of a couple of other big guns over the weekend, the return of Long Run certainly confirms that Nicky Henderson's autumn offensive is now fully underway. Sure enough, the Seven Barrows trainer yesterday dispatched another rising star from his cavalry to illuminate a dank afternoon at Plumpton.
After a light first campaign with the yard, when winning two of his three hurdle starts, Broadbackbob was sent off at odds-on for the novice chase and duly produced an immaculate round before coasting home by three lengths.
"He jumped brilliantly," jockey Barry Geraghty said. "He got in a bit tight to a couple, but that was my fault – I was meeting them a bit long, I had so much horse. The fences here are trappy, and you learn a lot. He's not massive, but scopey and accurate."
In the Betfair Chase, meanwhile, Long Run faces a new force on the elite scene in Silviniaco Conti. "Our trading department are keen to take on Long Run, and offer a top-priced 6-4," said Tony Calvin, spokesman for the sponsors. "Timeform have him 8lbs clear of this field, but he does have something to prove after failing to reach his 2011 heights last season." Silviniaco Conti, impressive on his return at Wetherby, is 11-4, with Imperial Commander on 7-1 and The Giant Bolster 8-1.
Connections of Imperial Commander will take heart from the example of Go Native, who had himself spent a long spell on the sidelines before a couple of spins on the Flat last month and ran such a blinder on his return to hurdles at Punchestown on Sunday.
Go Native was challenging Hurricane Fly when slithering to the ground over the last flight and his trainer, Noel Meade, was relieved to discover no ill effects yesterday. Indeed, he did not rule out a crack at the Stan James Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday week.
"He seems fine," Meade said."He got up straightaway and was okay this morning, but we might just get the physio to make sure.
"He was just a couple of inches too low, caught the top and came down. Obviously he had a heavy fall, but he slid along the ground, so didn't take the brunt of it."
Chris McGrath's Nap
McMonagle (3.20 Southwell) A poor strike-rate overall but there are signs of renewal for this yard and a return to this longer trip is likely to suit, not least in trying this surface for the first time.
Mandy The Nag (1.50 Southwell) Has shown enough in her first couple of spins to make an impact in this company and, with her pedigree on dirt, she can do better again on this surface.
Where The Money's Going: Bob's Worth is 9-2 from 5-1 with William Hill for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday week.
- More about: