This is the first time he has spoken publicly since he tested positively at Longchamp on Arc trials day for what was widely believed to be cocaine. Although he doesn’t use the word himself, when Balding asked directly “why did you take cocaine and in what circumstances?” Dettori does not challenge her. He simply says, “Things were going bad, I was depressed, and I guess a moment of weakness and I fell for it. I can’t blame anybody else.”
Dettori reflects on the impact events have had on his family, and the embarrassment he felt when he had to tell his children what was happening. In the teaser for the interview, he does sound contrite. “I’m very ashamed and embarrassed,” he said. “I paid a big price for it. I spent six months not doing the thing that I love, racing. The embarrassment of it when it came out, I had to hide in my house for a week, the paparazzi outside, the embarrassment of telling the children. They still go to school, they might get bullied, and so it was a very difficult time.”
Certainly, it was a low time in his racing career, and his future with Godolphin had been in doubt for much of the season, with Sylvestre de Sousa and Mickael Barzalona taking most of the plum rides. In the interview, he looks back on that time and also the drugs scandal that has engulfed former Godolphin trainer Mahmood al Zarooni.
Dettori returns to action at Leicester next Monday evening, where he has an almost full book of rides. The racecourse had hoped to rename the first race the “Welcome Back Frankie Maiden Stakes”, but that was banned, as general manager David Maykels explained. “We tried but the British Horseracing Authority have banned the idea because they think it is in bad taste. Some people said the name implied Leicester racecourse was supporting drugs, but it isn’t about that at all. What we wanted to say was that Frankie is good for the sport and we are glad to have him back. He opened our new grandstand in 1997. We are hoping for a bumper crowd. We normally get about 1,000 spectators for our first meeting of the year.”
Dettori will hope quickly to prove that he has lost none of his appetite for racing and his skill in delivering winners. An early objective will be for his agent, Ray Cochrane, to secure him rides in the Derby and Oaks. What an irony if that were to be on a Ballydoyle horse, as when Dettori took the ride on Camelot in the Arc last year it was seen by many as the final straw in his long relationship with the Godolphin team.