Dettori hopes any ban is backdated

 

The final depressing chapter of a yearbook Frankie Dettori will not want to thumb through too often will be dictated in France today when he will learn of his punishment for failing a drugs test taken at Longchamp in September. If precedents are adhered to, the sport's most instantly recognisable practitioner will be handed a six-month worldwide ban.

The stewards of the French racing authority, France Galop, will deliver their verdict after having considered the findings of their medical officers, who two weeks ago imposed a temporary suspension on the jockey. Dettori, who turns 42 on Saturday week, had held his hands up, saying through solicitor Christopher Stewart-Moore, that he accepted their conclusions "without reservation".

The banned substance found in Dettori's system when he was one of five riders randomly tested on 16 September, Arc trials day at the Paris track, has not been identified by the French authorities. The Italian's legal team have described it only as "non performance-enhancing".

For Dettori, this year in the saddle had already been turbulent. Three weeks before his positive drugs test was announced, he parted company with his employer of 18 years, Sheikh Mohammed. He had become disenchanted with the fast-tracking of young recruit Mickael Barzalona through the Godolphin ranks, and brought matters to a head by taking, without seeking permission, the Arc ride on Camelot for the sheikh's arch-rivals at Coolmore.

Dettori's score of 51 domestic winners is his lowest since 2000, when he came close to losing his life in the plane crash at Newmarket that killed his pilot. He has won just three top-level prizes in 2012, of which the Ascot Gold Cup on Colour Vision was the only one in Britain and the only one for Godolphin. Last year, he won 11, including eight for the Blues.

He is not the first high-profile British-based rider to fall foul of drug testing in France. In 2006, Kieren Fallon was suspended for six months after testing positive to a metabolite of cocaine at Chantilly, and Dean Gallagher was also served with a six-month penalty after a failed test in 2000.

Dettori had planned an assault next year on the jockeys' title, which he last won in 2004, as a freelance, and a six-month ban would hit those aspirations hard. It would also damage any hope of an association with the Coolmore team, whose present first choice, trainer Aidan O'Brien's son Joseph, is increasingly battling with his weight.

It will be perfectly possible for Dettori to bounce back from a lengthy suspension and he will want to continue and conclude his career on his terms. But if the ban is imposed from today, he would not ride again until 4 June, by which time the first four English Classics will have been run and partnerships with the top horses established. If he could have the expected ban backdated to the last time he rode, on Cavalryman in the Melbourne Cup on 6 November, it would give him a welcome extra month to establish a foothold. Indeed, this year's champion Richard Hughes did not start until May because of a suspension picked up in India.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Zen Factor (1.30 Folkestone)

Won in better company over hurdles and drops in class after his seasonal debut over fences, only his third run over the larger obstacles and a better effort than his two at the end of last term.

Next Best: Pertemps Networks (3.40 Wolverhampton)

Will need a career-best effort, but loves today's track and is in good fettle, having won with something in hand when he scored there last month.

One to watch: His jumping still needs attention, but Handy Andy (Colin Tizzard) stayed on well for third at Newbury on Saturday on his third try in a chase and will surely find an opportunity off his current mark.

Where the money's going: Alfie Sherrin and West End Rocker share favouritism at 7-1 with Paddy Power for Saturday's Becher Chase, the first contest over Aintree's specialist fences since the Grand National in April.

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