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Dettori accolade should be given unqualified approval.

Byline: Paul Haigh

First, a very important announcement. Last week this column highlighted the appalling situation in our local betting shop. On Boxing Day, we regulars who had grown used in the good old days to being offered complimentary brandy and mince pies on the occasion of this annual puntfest found to our horror the only visible treat to be a not entirely appetising-indeed to some rather threatening -bowl of not particularly festive peanuts.

Naturally word of our plight generated a great wave of public sympathy and I have been asked to say we are all most grateful to the legendarily generous racing community, which has again demonstrated its solidarity with those less fortunate than itself. (Although no more left-over Mr Kiplings, please, our postman begs me to suggest.)

Following our ruthless expos, however, I am delighted to be able to report that there appears to have been not just a reversal of the cuts but an abrupt change of heart on the part the previously cheeseparing management.

For on Saturday a veritable cornucopia of good cheer greeted us, as, with all other racing abandoned because of inclement weather, we struggled gamely to come to terms with the arcane mysteries of Perry Barr, Sunderland, Dogford Cats, and-pity us, dear reader-Kenilworth and Turffontein (without form). Everywhere we looked there were snacks, delicacies, cans of soft drink, Stella Artois, even Boddingtons. Tuck in? You bet we did.

"Well done, Paul," murmured one punter humbly. "Campaigning journalism at its best."

It's moments like this that make this job seem really worthwhile, I thought as I accepted his compliment with all the modesty and graciousness which has, I hope, become this column's gleaming trademark.

But one thought did niggle a little as I basked in the admiration of my peers, and, after not a little soul-searching, I do feel I have a duty to make one thing clear.

Apparently a similar buffet, prepared by the same ladies who had in fact been slaving over it since well before sparrow-fart, had been available on Boxing Day itself but had been carefully wrapped and concealed beneath the counter to protect it, and of course the cognac, from the fearsome depredations of gun-jumping scoffers, not least the ever-opportunistic Clint.

It just happened that it had not yet been produced at the time I came in to put on my Yuletide losers. So I suppose if you wanted to be really harsh, you could say that, far from righting yet another disgraceful wrong, I did in fact get, just ever so slightly, the wrong end of the Feast of Stephen stick.

Anyway, enough of this subject. This correspondence, as they say, is now closed. Let us consider instead the matter of Frankie Dettori's MBE. Was it well deserved? Was it the right accolade? Was it a reason for self-congratulation for racing as a whole?

In general I think the answer to all these questions has to be a resounding yes. And even those of us who take no notice of the Honours List because, quite frankly, we never expect it to take any notice of us, should seize this opportunity to rejoice with our hero and again feel happy he's still alive.

This doesn't mean, however, that he will in future be referred to here as `Frankie Dettori MBE' because, although I have no basic objection to foreign nationals becoming members of organisations that no longer exist-I am actually a prince of the Holy Roman Empire; and Clint, although he doesn't talk about it much, is in fact a bishop of the Albigensian church-one of my New Year resolutions as a (failed) egalitarian is to dispense with titles altogether because they are bad for society as a whole.

Thus Frankie will still be referred to as `Frankie', Sir Michael Stoute as `Stoutey', Lord Hartington as `Stoker'-and so on right down to Jeffrey Archer, who will in future be known as `The Accused'.

My other resolutions, in no particular order are:

Not to write down any more phone numbers without putting names next to them.

Not to travel on any more trains until they stop calling me a `customer'.

Not to bet each-way in chases.

Not to have any more little bets on the dogs just because there's still 10 minutes to the next horserace.

To devote more time and energy to the noble science of trifectology.

To drink more wine and less beer and spirits.

To have another crack at reading Proust-the greatest of all literary geniuses according to Andr Fabre, though not, I think, Monty Python.

And, finally, not to write any more sarcastic things about people who are only trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Except, of course, Derek Thompson.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 2, 2001
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