Day of reckoning for Dettori after positive drugs test
Frankie Dettori has enjoyed some of his greatest triumphs in Paris but is widely expected to endure a career nadir today when facing a disciplinary hearing at France Galop’s HQ into a positive drugs test.
Although the substance involved has not been officially declared, Dettori’s lawyer has already stated it is not “performance enhancing” and it has been widely reported to be cocaine.
If that is confirmed, the world’s most famous jockey faces a six-month worldwide ban.
That will be a major blow to the 41-year-old Italian star and already there has been speculation about Dettori possibly choosing not to return from such a prolonged lay-off.
Certainly the impact of a drugs ban will reverberate far beyond racing as Dettori easily remains the sport’s best-known figure with a huge public profile comparable in modern times only to Lester Piggott who famously returned to race-riding after retirement and a prison sentence for tax evasion.
The ebullient Dettori could hardly present a more contrasting image to “Old Stoneface” Piggott.
It is 16 years since the triple champion jockey burst into the wider public consciousness with a famous seven-out-of-seven at Ascot.
Since then he has become the face of racing, and not just in Britain.
Just a week before providing the positive test at Longchamp’s ‘Arc Trials’ meeting in September, Dettori secured a fifth victory in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on board Snow Fairy.
It was a hugely popular success, just the latest for the jockey in this country where he has won almost every top-flight race including seven classic victories.
Dettori’s Leopardstown’s celebrations were typically flamboyant but Snow Fairy’s win also proved how his big-race temperament remains intact. Behind the flash, there is a talent and determination that still makes him, for many, the world’s outstanding jockey.
It is that grit and hard-nosed professionalism that is sometimes forgotten when dealing with ‘Brand Dettori’, the public face that is associated with pizza restaurants, popular yoghurts and his trademark flying dismount.
In 1993, cocaine was at the centre of a police caution for possession that briefly looked like seeing an outrageous natural talent going off the rails.
Dettori’s response was to win a first jockeys championship the following year.
In 2000 only the quick-thinking of his then colleague, and now agent, Ray Cochrane saw him survive a plane crash that claimed the life of the pilot. Cochrane pulled Dettori from the wreckage just before the light plane exploded.