The fact that this blog is called The Reference Point says all you need to know about my life-long admiration for Sir Henry Cecil. We will, quite genuinely, never see his like again. He made me cry when returning from the wilderness to win the Oaks with Light Shift and he made me cry this morning at the news of his passing. An unforgettable genius and a wonderful man.
Whilst sister Venus looks a sad shadow of the powerful Grand Slam-winning athlete that devoured many a title, sister Serena could not be living up to her name more impressively. Serene progress since becoming injury-free last year has delivered a string of victories in which, crucially, she has gained a massive psychological advantage over her prime rivals in Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Both are outstanding talents but it’s hard to see either displaying sufficient mental resolve to stop the American from taking this week’s French Open title. Azarenka looks the most likely but at present it seems simply a question of how long Williams wants to stay on the tour and continue to rack up evermore titles. It’s hard to take to her at times but never difficult to appreciate the dominating brilliance of her current winning streak.
Frankie Dettori is back – as we all know thanks to the relentless diet of relevant facts and irrelevant drivel trotted out by various factions of the media. Some were keen to welcome back the flamboyant Italian, choosing to seemingly disregard his flagrant breach of the rules within his sport. For heaven’s sake we even had a racecourse – Leicester – choosing to call their opening race of the day the “Welcome Back Frankie” stakes. Idiocy of the highest order that was thankfully dealt in impressively speedy and practical fashion by the BHA. The eventual return was predictably low-key, although it’s likely that the first winner back will be greeted in certain quarters with indecent rapture. For most observers, the most fascinating aspect of the story will be the approach of the former Godolphin number one to his new freelance role.
Just how committed will he be to travelling to the very places he has chosen to eliminate from his schedule in the past? Nottingham on a quiet Monday and Ponte on a Tuesday – for a couple of rides at each? And how about the double headers that could end at 9.30 in the evening at Wolverhampton or Kempton? Frankie has never been easy to predict in the past so I’m not going to try now as he ventures forth on a dramatic new chapter of his career at the age of 42. After all, Lester Piggott enjoyed a period of astonishing success when taking the post of Henry Cecil’s stable jockey – and he was 46 when stepping into that pressure cooker of a role. The chance for Dettori to pay back his sport for his misdemeanours is one which he will hopefully grasp with both hands and confirm that he remains one of the world’s great jockeys. It’s a long road back to the top after the remarkable years of the Godolphin summer of a magnificent career on horseback. Let’s hope he can reclaim that brilliance with the approach of autumn.