Sport on TV: Frankie the joy rider in Anderson country

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The Independent Online
That little Frankie Dettori gets everywhere, which may be something to do with the fact that he has a book out. First he presented Top of the Pops, then last week he popped up on Clive Anderson Talks Back (BBC1). Dettori is hotly tipped to become the first jockey to appear on seven television programmes in one day.

This would be no bad thing, for he is an immensely engaging character, relaxed and entertaining. He is also a pretty shrewd operator. Having heard that Anderson tends to make mincemeat of his guests, Dettori arrived with a propitiatory gift: a Tina-Turner-style wig. For once, the bald barrister was lost for words.

Cross-examined by Anderson on his upbringing as the son of a jockey, Dettori revealed an unusual ambition. "Everyone used to ask me: `Oh, do you want to be a jockey like your father?' " he recalled. "I used to say: `No, I want to be a petrol pump attendant'." He must have had a change of heart - why fill tanks when you could be filling banks?

Dettori also recalled that when he first came to seek his fortune as a jockey in this country, the family he was to stay with cooked him a special meal to make him feel at home. He grimaced at the memory: "`Einz ravioli." Pasta la vista, baby.

Anderson was intrigued to know whether or not horses knew that they were in a race. "What's in it for them?" he enquired. "A good life," Dettori replied, going on to discourse on the delights of a stud career. "Can you imagine having 100 mares to cover every year, waking up in the morning thinking: `Oh, Jesus, I've got another two to do today'." To be sure, any trainer who finds a way of conveying to colts the delights that lay in store if they win lots of races will not have far to look for owners.

"Do you get attached to horses?" Anderson asked next. "Or do you just hang on?" Dettori grinned hugely, revealing dazzling teeth and the fact that he does not run with his tongue strapped down. It turns out that his favourite horse was Lammtarra, the Derby winner who was later sold to stud for a vast fee. "Can you imagine," Dettori marvelled, "Thirty million dollars under my bum?" Some people put their money where their mouth is ...

Bottoms also figured largely in Women With Balls (Channel 4), a documentary that followed the fortunes of the Harlequins Ladies rugby union team. "Get your arses together," the Ladies' male coach exhorted, "so no one can come through, and drive over the top of the ball." Tight ends, indeed.

"This is the first year that we have had a Harlequins Ladies team," said David Brooks, the bufferish Quins president. "Whilst in the men's game you suffer a lot of injuries, they don't really want their ladies to turn up at home with black eyes, broken noses and cauliflower ears. They really like them to look a little more ladylike than that."

Tough: the Harlequins Ladies, despite their genteel name, are about as ladylike as the Brigade of Guards. "Debs off the field, bitches on it," was the claim of Camilla, the vice- captain. "So, Mills," Camilla's captain, Kirstie, asked her over a cup of tea, "would you ever go out with one of the [male] Harlequin players?" "I haven't got my eye on anyone," Camilla replied. Kirstie gave a filthy chuckle. "How about your hands?" Goodness, how debs have changed.

It also seems fairly unlikely that Queen Charlotte's Ball would include "Biting, scratching, pulling hair, grabbing tits, that sort of thing", apparently pretty standard behaviour on the rugby field, or a pint-chugging contest ("We can't play rugby but we can drink beer"), or a Boobs of the Year competition, complete with a chorus of "Get your tits out for the lads". Get your tiaras out, maybe.

It may be that we have become spoiled by the likes of The House and The Impossible Job, but viewers expect fly-on-the-wall documentaries to be revealing. The fact that female rugby players drink a lot of beer and talk about sex all the time doesn't register very high on the Revelationometer. The philosophy of the code clearly transcends so trivial a matter as gender.

As it does in the matter of soccer on Tyneside, examined in We Love You Alan Shearer (Channel 4). "My one ambition is to play for Newcastle even though I am a girl," a sad young thing read from her letter to the striker. One hopes that she got a sympathetic reply.

This documentary followed the fortunes not only of Newcastle United and the Toon Army, but also of the Under-11 team of Redheugh Boys' Club. "Lots of boys have come through here," the boys' club secretary, Evan Bryson, said. "All kinds of good things and nice things have happened to them after they left here. The football helped them get there. Helped to stabilise their lives. It stabilised the life of Paul Gascoigne, who came here when he was eight or nine. At that time it stabilised him, anyway..." Never mind the counselling: send him back to the boys' club.

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