Still the sword dangles upon its horsehair. The protracted procedural ordeal of Frankie Dettori was today extended one last time, following what his lawyer described as "a very sympathetic hearing" in Paris. Dettori, who notoriously failed a drugs test at Longchamp in September, was not himself required to join Christopher Stewart-Moore at a 40-minute meeting of the French racing authority's disciplinary panel, which deferred formal pronouncement of its punishment until this morning. All precedent suggests he will receive a six-month suspension, which would be reciprocated worldwide by other racing jurisdictions.
Stewart-Moore confined himself to acknowledging the congenial atmosphere. He did indicate some comment would be volunteered after Dettori's fate had been announced, but none in the meantime "out of respect for the decision-making process".
A medical commission had already considered Dettori's case, two weeks previously, after which his licence was temporarily suspended. Stewart-Moore had already accepted its findings "without reservation", with an implied admission that a ban is inevitable on a principle of strict liability.
His principal objective since has been to get that suspension backdated, at worst to that date, 21 November, and ideally to 6 November – the last time Dettori rode in public, in the Melbourne Cup. His submission is presumed to be that Dettori, in effect, anticipated a ban by declining any opportunity to ride, pending charges that had not yet been made public. Unfortunately, the standard practice in France is for suspensions to commence nine days after their publication – and hitherto France Galop could not have adhered more scrupulously to its protocols. An earlier attempt to accelerate the process, by dovetailing the two hearings, proved unsuccessful.
Just about the last remaining uncertainty in the case, therefore, appears to be the date Dettori can circle in the 2013 calendar as the end of his excruciating exile – and the beginning of his new career as a freelance rider. If his lawyer's request were indulged, Dettori would be able to resume in May, and so be available to ride at the Investec Derby meeting at Epsom. That was more than he managed this year, of course, when he spent Derby day at Haydock, ruminating on the promotion of young Mickael Barzalona to share his position at Godolphin. He had already ended his 18-year association with that stable when news of his positive test broke last month.
There is an obvious anxiety that a delayed return will cost Dettori precious connections, as he seeks to build a new portfolio, but these are easily exaggerated. Spare rides are extremely scarce in the first weeks of the season, at every level, and Dettori could count himself most unlucky if he happened to miss out on the one colt or filly that emerges, from all the various trials, as a Guineas winner.
A jockey who will be able to look upon 2012 with rather more pride is Graham Lee, who rode his 100th winner of the year – his first since an audacious switch from jumps to Flat – at Wolverhampton today.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Landenstown Star (3.10 Hereford) Not long with Tim Vaughan and all the signs are that this point-to-point winner is now ready to exploit a lenient mark: back over fences, in headgear, and with Richard Johnson replacing an inexperienced conditional jockey.
Yarroom (12.00 Lingfield) A well-bred, well-made colt who totally dominated his rivals when winning a Wolverhampton maiden last time. Looks as though he could prove a cut above this level.
One to watch
His habit of missing the break means that O'Gorman (Gary Brown) does not come without risks, but the way he travelled before rattling into second at Kempton last week confirms that he has more ability than his current rating.