Dettori makes his Racing League mark – but night belongs to London and The South

Horse Racing

Matt Chapman’s team in firm control after week two at Lingfield.

London and The South continue to rule the roost in the Racing League – but not for the first time, Frankie Dettori drew the biggest cheer on a balmy night at Lingfield.

The league is still in its infancy, yet there is no better person to give the burgeoning team concept a boost than Frankie riding a winner.

Dettori may be in the autumn of his career, yet he will always draw a crowd like no other and he has bought into innovative concepts before. The 51-year-old is a large reason why the Shergar Cup has flourished and he has done his bit to kick-start this latest innovation, the brainchild of Jeremy Wray.

He even treated the punters to a flying dismount after giving the Milton Harris-trained Postmark (7-1) a positive ride to take the William Hill Bet Boost Racing League R11 by two and a quarter lengths.

A flying dismount from Frankie
A flying dismount from Frankie (Simon Marper/PA)

Though Wales and The West, of which he is a part, lags behind London and The South after two of the six Racing League meetings, Dettori remained upbeat.

“It is great to get a winner on the board for my team. Milton is happy, Jamie (Osborne, team captain) is happy, and I’ve managed to win for the trainer at last – he said I rode about six seconds for him, so it is great to get him off my back!

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure about the Racing League as a concept initially, but I see what they are trying to do and everyone loves a team – so we are trying to build it up and the punters seem to be taking to it.

“The prize-money is great for horses of this calibre, and people cannot knock that. We have the TV cameras here and it is a lovely evening – what more could we ask for?”

Dettori’s team had two winners on the night, as Saffie Osborne steered the Clive Cox-trained Tregony (10-1) to success in the William Hill Pick Your Places Racing League R12.

Tregony and Saffie Osborne
Tregony and Saffie Osborne (Simon Marper/PA)

Osborne senior said: “Well done child! I said last night I would settle for one winner, so to have two and see London and The South captain Matt Chapman play a duff joker is absolutely marvellous.

“Saffie gave her a great ride and we are starting to crawl up that board now!”

However, Chapman’s team have a big lead heading into the Racing League’s third meeting.

That is thanks in no small part to jockey Sean Levey who, after riding a treble on the opening night at Doncaster, continued at the top of the jockey standings as he notched his fourth Racing League winner when Immortal Beauty (9-2) beat Sunningdale in the eight-runner, seven-furlong nursery, with the Richard Hannon inmate leading home a London and The South one-two.

Chapman – who explained why he could not play a joker in that event – said: “That was a brilliant result for London and The South – and not a surprising one at all.

“As many people know, we changed the rules for the jokers in this competition, so that you had to have 13 or 14 runners in the race to play the joker.

“I have absolutely no doubt I would have played the joker in that nursery and it probably would have just about put the competition to bed, but to be honest, I was the one who said that rule should be changed.

“It was clearly unfair that you could get double points when there are only eight runners.

“We changed that rule and it was a great result and I think people will be amazed that Immortal Beauty went off at 9-2 and on a night, up to this race, where everyone said you need to be on the front end, full credit to Sean Levey who has come from last to first, came flying through and gave it a brilliant ride.”

It got even better for Chapman’s outfit when the Daniel Muscutt-ridden Diamond Bay (4-1) reeled in Dettori and 7-2 favourite Country Pyle in the finale, to leave London and The South on 340 points – clear of Wales and The West on 269 points and The East on 206.

But Chapman is taking nothing for granted, saying: “It has been another great night for London and The South, but there is no doubt Jamie Osborne is taking this very seriously, and Wales and The West are hanging in there.

“Remember, what has happened over the first two meetings can completely change over the next two meetings, but as with all competitions, you’d rather be doing well at the start, so I am delighted.

“I have to thank all my incredible trainers who have been charming to deal with and my excellent riders, particularly of course tonight Muscutt and Louis Steward who have come on board. Round three, here we come!”

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