The images of Frankie Dettori collecting his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe trophy earlier this month in Paris were ones that will – rightly – live long in the memory. As I wrote at the time, here is a jockey who has found his road to redemption this season and who – in the aftermath of Paris – was praised for having delivered arguably the ride of the season on Golden Horn. That day, Dettori steered a trouble-free path to glory, far from the rest of the pack, and ultimately it was to prove inspirational.
On Saturday at Doncaster, however, Dettori got it wrong. This is no criticism. It’s simply an observation that needn’t be dissected too forensically. The jockey stuck to the stands’ rail, got boxed in, was all dressed up with nowhere to go on Foundation and ultimately came to grief.
Those greedy punters who had their proverbials on the 10/11 favourite may choose to lash out at the jockey, but they ought to be silenced. Dettori had a bad day, just as we all do, all too often, but rarely do the rest of us have great days like the one the popular Italian had in Paris.
If racing were metronomic and consistent we would tire of it almost immediately. Dettori remains one of the feel-good stories of the season we are now putting to bed and that’s how we’ll remember 2015.
On Tuesday, I’m off to St Luke’s church in Chelsea to say a hearty farewell to the late, great Sir Peter O’Sullevan at his memorial service. Late last week, I got a sneak preview of the order of service and, having seen that, have closed the book on there not being a dry eye in the church. We will celebrate a life well-lived with contributions from the great and good of showbiz, sport and racing in equal measure.
Next week I’ll share my reflections on what promises to be a good day, but for those unable to join us in Chelsea, raise a glass – if you can – to join from afar the many of us who will be retiring to the nearby bars and restaurants to continue our memories of a broadcasting great.
Happily, for those of us who try to retain our humour, Clive Brittain is very much with us. Brittain signed off from the training ranks at the weekend with his horse Acclio running in the 7f fillies’ handicap at Newbury.
Acclio didn’t win but the scenes at Newbury were ones to celebrate. Brittain, aged 81, was there with his wife Maureen with whom he plans to share his retirement. Brittain won 6 British Classics over a career that spanned four decades, but even greater was his achievement in making the racing circuit a more happy, fun place.
He remains slightly crackers and recent scenes of him dancing jigs of delight in Winners’ Enclosures at major meetings have done little to diminish the reality that racing will be poorer without him around. It’s not all about winning, really. It’s simply about making the racing more fun – and Clive was the king when it came to that.
I’m in danger of becoming a grumpy old curmudgeon but the Breeders’ Cup doesn’t especially light my fire any more. I can’t put my finger on what it is about the meeting which leaves me feeling a bit underwhelmed.
I’ve never been, of course, and perhaps that’s largely part of it. And it wasn’t always the case: at Uni in 2011 I hired out the Oxford Union TV room on the Saturday night to host a party that saw Sakhee denied by a nostril in the Classic, Fantastic Light dazzle in the Turf and Johannesburg turn over the unbeatable US hotpost (Officer, I think?!) in the Juvenile. That felt like an epic night, and it felt fresh, real and glamorous without being over-hyped.
Perhaps this weekend’s Keenelend spectacular will rekindle my enthusiasm and also fire the punters who have been giving it a worryingly wide berth in recent years. Given my recent form, I dare not ruin the chances of any poor horse by tipping it this weekend. If you tune in at the weekend, good luck!
Image: Frankie Dettori by Paul Friel