If ever we needed a superlative performance in Europe’s greatest flat race, it was Sunday October 6, 2013.
Thankfully we were treated to a masterclass from a French filly and her massively talented handler in Treve and the quite splendid Criquette Head. Considering that this year’s renewal of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was promoted as arguably the best for many a moon, it was rather disconcerting to be in a position to know the winner with a couple of furlongs still to travel.
However, it is wonderful to be simply stunned by a performance now and again and bask in the glow of the extra-special. The media will hopefully focus on the magnificence of the filly rather than reflecting upon the injury to her original pilot – one Frankie Dettori.
Put simply, Dettori has endured an annus horribilis as The Queen magnificently put it in a truly memorable Christmas message (following the death of Princess Diana). A 6-month drugs ban was followed by a paucity of winners (who would ever have predicted a final total of fewer than 20 for the Italian in 2013? Certainly not the man himself) before the freakish fall which prevented Dettori from rescuing his season – and year – in one fell swoop.
It is said that only through loss, suffering and defeat do we really understand the essence of success and pure delight. So the return of Dettori to the saddle is a fascinating prospect – and is guaranteed to be one story that will run and run throughout 2014
The reason the sport required a stellar Arc performance can be found in one word- McCririck. Along with the aforementioned Dettori, these two members of our sport – so we are regularly told – are our only celebrities. They transcend our sport. Heaven help us.
It has been astonishing to read over the years that we need to promote Big Mac for that sole reason –he is a genuine celebrity. Does that mean he does our sport proud? Do people watch his ludicrous misbehaviours on a sequence of inane reality shows and emerge with the opinion that they should become interested in the sport that this man represents? The cult of celebrity itself has become increasingly odious and my presumption is that the precise opposite would be the case
I have only spoken to McCririck once. Here is what was said;
Me: Hello Mr McCricrick. Would you be kind enough to sign my son’s autograph book, please?
JM: NO. I don’t do autographs. I am a loathsome, horrible creature. Go away.
Me: Thank you.
That is what you get from our leading personality. Not to mention boorish, sexist, classist and inexcusably rude rants. How often does he brand the sport – and certain bookmakers – as disgraceful – whilst being perfectly happy to take any money on offer from the likes of Ladbrokes to advertise their product?
One point to make at this stage – Big Mac was quite superb down in the betting jungle when fully focussed on his job. His research was excellent and in many ways he was light years superior to his successor. But he is a sadly misguided man and it is to be hoped that he will lose his case for unfair dismissal at the court case that has smeared our national media this week.
Why? Simply because he really believes that he deserves the job because he is good at it – irrespective of frequently appalling on-screen behaviour. There is more to presenting than mere knowledge and it is rather sad that McCririck has failed to come to terms with the 21st century and still, like certain other C4 presenters before him, steadfastly refuses to move with the times. His dismissal was not handled well. But that does not make it wrong.
Maybe he should take a leaf from the book of Alistair Down. However Channel Four could choose to dispense with the services of the most articulate presenter and reporter of our sport continues to astonish. As for Down himself, his reaction was one of acceptance and, more especially, dignity.
A virtue very much lacking in the subject of the majority of the preceding paragraphs.