Magazine article The Spectator

Hot Competition

Magazine article The Spectator

Hot Competition

Article excerpt

It was to have been Ascot on Saturday. But alternative political duties for CNN intervened. 'OK, ' said the little green man descending from his flying saucer in Parliament Square, 'I appreciate that "Take me to your Leader" won't do right now. But when can you take me to your Leader?'

I had been musing at the time on the bleak picture ahead. Prize money down.

Breeders' prizes cut by 20 per cent. Lower appearance money for horses running at Sunday fixtures. Even funds for regulation and dope testing being trimmed. And that's nothing to do with the regimen of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, just the cuts imposed by the Levy Board, the fount of racing's finances, for 2010.

Fortunately, in racing at least, there is a counter-case to cheer us up. 'Racing For Change' keeps looking for a 'narrative' to boost the sport. This year one has fallen into its hands. The Flat jockeys' championship this season promises to be a cracker. Bored with two-party or even three-party politics?

Here is a contest with at least half a dozen real contestants.

Ryan Moore, just 26, has lifted the title for the past two years. If it was down to post-race interviews, opinion polls would probably give him a minus rating, but his instinctive ability in the saddle and the fact that he is retained by Sir Michael Stoute makes him favourite again.

But there with a rather more rakish hairstyle, a more relaxed personality than he has had for three years and a determination to make up for lost time, is the multiple past champion and Naughty Boy of British racing Kieren Fallon. He is determined at 45 to wrest back the title he last held in 2003 before drink problems, court cases and suspensions for recreational drug use intervened. Riding for Luca Cumani will give him a decent base and he insists, 'If I get the rides, I will deliver.'

You can then add to that mix the housewives' favourite Frankie Dettori, he of the famous 'flying dismount'. Frankie last won the championship back in 2004 when riding 192 winners. This season he has signalled his readiness to compete by setting himself a target of 150 and starting early riding Mark Johnston's horses before his own Godolphin yard gears up. 'Frankie wants to be part of this, ' says Kieren.

Frankie, perhaps, is feeling just a little stimulated by the fact that his main employer, Sheikh Mohammed, is keen now to give a lift also to Dubaian-born Ahmed Ajtebi, who rode two winners on Dubai World Cup night in 2009. …

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