THE Roodee hasn't been the happiest hunting ground for Britain's top three jockeys in 2004.

In fact, just one win from 34 races is surely a record that would make most punters shy away from putting their money on horses ridden by Kieren Fallon, Frankie Dettori and Darryll Holland!

But while it's been a drought at Chester for the leading trio, theirs is a fascinating battle for this year's flat riders' championship which, fortunately for them, is judged on winners at all 35 racecourses where there is flat racing and not just The Roodee.

The current champion, Kieren Fallon, is in front. Just.

Snapping at his heels is Darryll Holland, who is enjoying a superb summer, while Frankie Dettori isn't too far behind.

The one man who has broken leading Chester jockey Fallon's hold on the title in recent years believes that 2004 is Holland's big chance.

Kevin Darley won the championship four years ago, albeit after Fallon suffered a terrible injury. He says that Holland's investment in a plane is the key to his hopes because it is travelling, rather than the number of rides, which wears down a jockey.

If Holland maintains his drive and enthusiasm in late October and early November, when the flat season is finishing, Darley thinks he could claim the title from his rival.

In the major race in Britain this weekend, it's expected to be a Fallon versus Dettori affair. The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, over one-and-a-half miles at Ascot, is the traditional mid-season clash between the Classic generation and the older horses - only this year, the elders are in the ascendancy. The leading five contenders, Doyen, Warrsan, Vallee Enchantee, Gamut and Sulamani, are all aged between four and six years.

Frankie will ride hot favourite Doyen; Kieren is expected to be on Gamut.

Derby winner North Light misses the race after returning sore from the Irish Derby.

The next fixture at Chester is the annual Family Funday on Sunday, August 1. Badges are priced at: County Stand £25-35; Tattersalls & Paddock £15; Dee Stands £7; Open Course £6. Car parking is £5 on the day. Badges can be bought online from or via the credit card hotline on 01244 304610.