Purgatory was prolonged for Frankie Dettori when formal proceedings arising from the drugs test he failed at Longchamp in September began in a fashion characteristic of the French racing authorities – which, is to say, slowly and secretively.
A medical panel of France Galop convened in Paris with the jockey’s lawyer, Christopher Stewart-Moore, but declined any public disclosure of their findings. Dettori, understood to be in Dubai, was not obliged to attend the hearing and duly restricted his input to a conference call. A separate, disciplinary panel has another fortnight in which to determine any punishment. Dettori potentially faces a worldwide six-month ban – as served by Kieren Fallon, after the first of two failed drugs tests in France, in 2006.
Julien Pescatore, media relations manager of France Galop, reiterated its policy of privacy – which extends to not specifying the prohibited substance in question. “The substance will never be revealed by either the medical commission or France Galop,” he said. “That is always the case. The medical committee will give their decision to the jockey and as long as he has not received it, France Galop will not communicate anything.”
It is understood that efforts had been made to expedite the cumbersome process, but these were plainly to no avail. Certainly Dettori himself must be eager for any suspension to commence as soon as possible, so keeping to a minimum interruption of his first season as a freelance in 18 years. Last month Dettori parted company with Godolphin, where his status had been challenged by the recruitment this year of Mickael Barzalona.
Pescatore did emphasise that Dettori had not been “targeted”, and that he had figured randomly among three breathalyser and two urine tests on 16 September.
Events back on home soil suggested that life on the Turf is complicated enough. First there was the melancholy news from Nigel Twiston-Davies that Imperial Commander must miss his intended comeback at Haydock on Saturday after suffering another setback. The 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, not seen since being pulled up in the 2011 running, has fractured a hind-leg splint bone. “It’s nothing dramatic, but means he won’t be in full work for around six weeks,” Twiston-Davies said. “We can still do swimming with him and things like that. It’s disappointing but these things happen.”
Then Brendan Powell Jnr showed that mortification for jockeys can come in many different guises, given a 14-day ban for taking the wrong course on Benny The Swinger in a chase at Fakenham. Having jumped the last with a clear lead, he neglected to keep left of the fence near the winning post and jumped the obstacle. In fairness, Fakenham has confused jockeys in the past, and the configuration of the finish may need attention – but that offers no comfort either to his most promising young rider, whose remorse was transparent, or anyone who backed the hot favourite.
The episode caused mayhem on the betting exchanges. Tony Calvin, spokesman for Betfair, reckoned it unprecedented for two horses to lose after trading at 1-100 in running in the same race, and the winner meanwhile to trade at the maximum price of 999-1. “Benny The Swinger looked set for an easy victory,” he explained. “As you would expect, he traded at the minimum price, with £35,524.24 traded at that price alone. However, he then took the wrong course on the run-in. The horse in second, Roc De Guye, who had been matched at 999-1 when seemingly booked for second, was then also backed at 1-100. But he then stopped on the run-in – and Peak Seasons got up on the post to win by a nose, having traded at 999-1.”
Chris McGrath’s Nap
Derwentwater (6.00 Kempton) Looks dangerously treated for this handicap debut, having kept the company of several subsequent winners when hinting at better to come in a third maiden spin.
Caboodle (4.00 Kempton) Stable was very quiet when this filly showed nothing in two starts in the spring, but she has a fair pedigree.
Where The Money’s Going
The Giant Bolster is 6-1 from 10-1 with Ladbrokes for the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.