Magazine article The Spectator

Bigheads Beware

Magazine article The Spectator

Bigheads Beware

Article excerpt

I hope to God that my worries about the future of Frankie Dettori are completely unfounded, as on too many occasions I have seen successful sportsmen ruined as human beings by a sudden and irreversible swelling of the head which is quite cringemaking and also rather sad and embarrassing. So far, though, from what I have heard from people who know Dettori well, he remains level-headed and quite charming unlike the slightly unbalanced Chris Eubank and the extremely cocky Willie Carson who sometimes gives the impression that he invented race riding. Big headedness is not a deformity that afflicts only actors and pop singers. It is a million to one chance against Dettori going through the card ever again, particularly on a sixrace card let alone the fairly unusual sevenrace card, and his reaction to having done so is one of very pleasant surprise at his luck and his obvious appreciation that you can't come without the horse.

That was fully appreciated about 100 years ago when the then Duke of Westminster berated a jockey - Jem Robinson, I think it was - for being beaten by half a length on one of the Duke's horses. Robinson, with a touch of sarcasm, said, `I'm sorry, your Grace, but I couldn't come without the horse.' Dettori realises the same thing.

But what really amazes me most about that talkative young man is the extraordinary paradox of anybody at all having actually had a winning accumulator on that never to be forgotten day at Ascot. It may be a contradiction to say so, but it was a bet struck by a couple of insane optimists and in one case a woman who couldn't possibly have been aware that it was tantamount to winning the National Lottery on two consecutive weeks. Doubtless many punters in the future will make similar bets in the hope that lightning will strike twice in the same place, but then it did once at Ascot quite literally, killing some poor sod some years ago at the second strike.

But, as I say, Dettori seems at the moment to be almost unmoved by anything apart from great joy at his achievement. Willie Carson's cockiness verges on arrogance and he tries just a little too hard to make self-congratulatory jokes every time he opens his mouth, and Eubank just makes a fool of himself every time he makes an utterance. …

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