Frankie Dettori's comeback appeared in jeopardy once more on Tuesday night as the ruling body of French racing signalled that it had concerns relating to a "medical issue" over the jockey's fitness to resume his career.
It emerged that the issue could be related to a Racing Post report that Dettori had asked France Galop for a B sample to be checked from a recent test, which would normally indicate that the A sample had shown up irregularities in some way. The Post claimed that "irregularities" had been discovered in the relevant A sample and that it was expected to take seven to 10 days before the result of the B sample was known.
Dettori has been tested repeatedly by both France Galop and the British Horseracing Authority in the past month as his ban neared its end. Dettori's solicitor, Christopher Stewart-Moore, was quoted as saying: "He has undergone 15 tests [in Britain] and passed them all and we know that Dr Turner [of the BHA] is satisfied Frankie is entitled to continue to be licensed."
Under strict French rules, a jockey would be in breach if found to be positive for many over-the-counter medications, including aspirin. "We're waiting for him to get back to us over medical issues," said Julien Pescatore, communications director at France Galop. He was said to have described it as "a private matter".
Stewart-Moore echoed that sentiment, saying: "We are in correspondence with France Galop about this and it is a private matter."
No further elaboration has been offered by either side, but there have been widespread suggestions over the past four days that the French body's delay related to a sample taken from Dettori in the week of 22 April. Neither the jockey nor his agents returned phone calls on Tuesday night.
Dettori's six-month worldwide ban, following a positive test for cocaine while riding in France, ended on Sunday and he was expected to be riding again on Monday night. But he has still not managed to persuade officials to give him the green light and a resolution appears to be at least another week away.
Those close to Dettori must hope that the present glitch relates to something at a trivial level, in which case he might yet hope to regain his licence to ride in time for the Derby, when it is expected he will be given the leg-up on one of the many contenders trained by Aidan O'Brien.
Stewart-Moore has spoken of the jockey having "a number of riding commitments, some in the coming days being of particular interest". The lawyer's ire in recent days has been directed at the BHA and he has threatened to take it to the high court in an effort to make it approve Dettori's credentials. That threat appeared to carry little weight on Tuesday at the BHA, whose spokesman, Robin Mounsey, said: "We can't process his licence until we've got the approval and sign-off from the French authorities. That was always there as one of the conditions.
"The only way we could consider [licensing Dettori] is if we get the information as to why there's been a delay. That then leaves the possibility that we can make an informed decision as to whether it affects us. But until we get either of those things, the situation remains the same."
Earlier, Pescatore complained about media coverage of the issue in Britain, where some commentators have laid the blame for the delay at the door of France Galop. "I have read that we are blocking him. We are not blocking anything," he said.
There have been suggestions that while France Galop is presently refusing to pass Dettori as fit to ride in France, its officials would be sanguine about him being granted a licence to ride in Britain, but Pescatore would not confirm that. "We don't have to comment on what happens in Britain," he said.
Dettori gave a confessional interview to Channel 4 in which he said of September's positive test for cocaine: "I'm very ashamed and embarrassed, and paid a very big price for it, you know. I spent six months not doing the thing that I love, racing."
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