FRANKIE Dettori has attributed his failed drugs test to “one night of madness” after falling out of favour with Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation.
Dettori tested positive for a banned substance – believed to be cocaine – at Longchamp in September just 24 hours after rising star Mikael Barzalona rode Godolphin’s Encke to victory in the Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster.
Now banned from the saddle for six months, the father-of-five has still to confirm details of the substance or precisely when he became overwhelmed by self-doubt during a turbulent Flat season that culminated with his 18-year association with Sheikh Mohammed being ended in October.
Even though the 41-year-old plans to resume race riding next May just 10 days before the Epsom Derby, and still harbours dreams of regaining the champion jockey title that he last won in 2004, Dettori accepts that he may never repair the damage done to his reputation.
“I’ve been in hiding since it happened because of the shame factor,” he admitted.
“It’s not very pleasant. People will always remember it.
“Now when they look at me they won’t think of the things I have done for racing in the past 20 years, they’ll just think, ‘He’s the guy who got caught with drugs’.
“But you can’t change the past and you’ve just got to move on.
“I’m ashamed and embarrassed. It was one night of madness with friends.
“I dropped my guard when I was at my weakest. I was in a dark place. I was very low, my job was going down the drain.
“When I woke up the next morning I regretted it but it was already too late. I will regret it for the rest of my life.”
After France Galop handed down the six-month suspension on Wednesday, jurisdictions worldwide – including the British Horseracing Authority – are expected to replicate the terms.
Dettori’s next important date will be when he is summoned to the headquarters of France Galop, to be retested, towards the end of April.
The three-times British champion jockey said the indiscretion came as he feared for his future after association with powerful owners Godolphin came to an end after nearly two decades.
Dettori, who was cautioned by police for possession of cocaine in 1993, said: “The last three or four months have been very strange.
“It’s been frustration, unhappy times. I’ve been in a bad place.
“It got to the stage where I wasn’t flavour of the month any more and the love was gone.
“Watching someone else riding my horses while I was sat in the weighing room wasn’t a thing that I was used to. I wanted to be in the No 1 car, not be the second driver. Inside myself I wasn’t happy, which is why I let my guard down – I made a mistake.”
As to his future as a freelance rider, he said: “I have still got a good five years left in me.
“My ambition for the next five years is to get my career back on track and start doing good again. I feel like I have a point to prove now.
“I still need to come back to show I’m still as good as I was. I want to redeem my name.”
Dettori is not the only high-profile jockey on the sidelines – Grand National-winning rider Daryl Jacob will miss the lucrative Christmas and New Year period after being banned for 10 days by Wincanton’s stewards.
Jacob was on board the Nick Williams-trained Ulis De Vassy when he stopped riding momentarily in the finish to a handicap hurdle, apparently mistaking a path crossing the Somerset track for the finish line.
He was unable to recover in time to get past his close friend Nick Scholfield whose mount, Quaddick Lake, prevailed by a neck.
As No 2 rider behind Ruby Walsh at the in-form stable of champion trainer Paul Nicholls, the rider was in line for a number of high-profile rides over the festive period, including on King George VI Chase contender Kauto Stone.
He will also miss Chepstow’s Welsh National when he would have been on Nicholls’s first string because of Walsh’s expected commitments at Leopardstown’s prestigious Christmas meeting for Willie Mullins.
The dates of Jacob’s suspension mean he will sit out December 20-22, December 26-31 and January 1.
Cue Card is to skip a possible outing in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon later this month in favour of running in the William Hill King George VI Chase.
Colin Tizzard’s six-year-old gelding graduated to open company when sauntering 26 lengths clear in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in November and will now bid for the Boxing Day feature at Kempton.
Joe Tizzard, son of the Dorset handler and Cue Card’s regular jockey, said: “He’s in fine condition and his racing form is looking stronger every day.
“Bobs Worth, who won Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup, beat us last year at Newbury and had a 7lb weight advantage and I still feel we should have won that day.”
One horse likely to feature in the Peterborough Chase is Paul Webber’s mare Alasi, the mount of Guiseley-born Dominic Elsworth.
She is to skip her engagement at Sandown this weekend in favour of next Thursday’s contest.