Given the complaints which always arrive from a po-faced minority when Lanfranco Dettori performs one of his spectacular victory dismounts, it is a little ironic that the injury which will probably cost him his championship was sustained not on the racecourse or winners' enclosure, but in the paddock beforehand. Whatever the cause, though, the opening day at Royal Ascot tomorrow will be the first of many major cards this summer from which Dettori's name will be missing, and his absence will be felt almost as keenly by the punters as it will by John Gosden or Sheikh Mohammed.
Dettori's detractors, those who feel that his displays of joy and spirit are somehow demeaning to a great occasion, are the same sort of people who would prefer Boycott to Gower, or Ray Wilkins to Gascoigne. He makes racing fun in a way which no one else can, and does more to attract new followers to the sport than all of the British Horseracing Board's marketing initiatives put together. Without him, this could become a flat season in more ways than one.
Even those who will benefit from his absence appreciate Dettori's significance. Pat Eddery, for instance, now stands a favourite's chance of winning the championship and equalling Lester Piggott's total of 11 titles, but as he said this weekend, "to be honest I would rather he was riding, so I could have a fight for the championship."
He still may, though, since neither Richard Quinn (52 winners on turf) or Kieran Fallon (49) will be slacking in their pursuit of Eddery's total of 69. Eddery, though, appears to stand every chance of increasing his lead at Ascot this week, and he is second favourite, at 11-4, to lift the London Clubs Trophy, formerly the Ritz Club, awarded to the meeting's most successful rider. …