The most famous jockey in the world has been delighting racing fans for more than three decades. Frankie Dettori shows brilliance on the track and charisma off it.
He started the 2021 campaign still going strong at the age of 50. Nowadays, he rides less regularly than he once did – in the past four years he has had about 900 rides in Britain whereas he once had 1300 in a year – but he can always be seen at the big meetings and they rarely pass by without him making an impact.
The Milan-born superstar has ridden many great champions and won big races in no fewer than 24 countries. His bulging CV includes more than 500 Group-race triumphs, including the Derby twice and all the Group 1 races staged in England other than the Darley July Cup.
Frankie Dettori has been champion jockey three times and spent 18 years riding as No 1 jockey for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation before turning freelance in 2012.
But perhaps he will always be best remembered for riding all seven winners in one day at Ascot in 1996. His “Magnificent Seven” is the stuff of legend and reputedly cost the bookmaking industry tens of millions of pounds.
Dettori’s father was prolific Sardinian jockey Gianfranco Dettori and Dettori Jr was just 13 when he left school to become a stable boy and apprentice jockey.
The following year he travelled to England, where he apprenticed with Luca Cumani in 1985 and became a stable jockey soon after. Frankie Dettori has remained in Newmarket ever since and is married, to Catherine, with five children.
He became the first apprentice to ride 100 winners since the legendary Lester Piggott and was champion jockey in 1994, 1995 and 2004. In 1994 he had his best year, chalking up 233 winners. Incidentally, Piggott’s record of 30 Classic wins is still firmly in Dettori’s sights having notched 20 so far.
In between, in 2000, Dettori and fellow jockey Ray Cochrane (who later became his long-term agent) were aboard a Piper Seneca plane which crashed on take-off at Newmarket on its way to Goodwood in Sussex. Patrick Mackey, the pilot, was tragically killed but Dettori escaped with a fractured right ankle and an injured thumb.
Dettori was awarded the MBE later that year.
His riding career has been mostly sustained success but there was turbulence in 2012 when he was banned from race riding for six months in December after testing positive to cocaine while riding in France three months earlier.
He split from Godolphin the same year but remained in the public spotlight, appearing in the reality TV show Celebrity Big Brother in January 2013. He has also been a team captain in the BBC’s A Question Of Sport.
Dettori landed a new role with Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani before renewing former ties with John Gosden. The combination is among the most potent in racing.
Inevitably, Dettori has enjoyed tremendous success in races that fall under the QIPCO British Champions Series umbrella – never more so than in 2019 when he won a record-breaking 14 Series races, out of 35.
His winners were Enable (Coral-Eclipse, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Darley Yorkshire Oaks), Stradivarius (Matchbook Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup, Qatar Goodwood Cup, Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup and Doncaster Cup – pictured above), Logician (William Hill St Leger), Advertise (Commonwealth Cup), Crystal Ocean (The Prince of Wales Stakes), Too Darn Hot (Qatar Sussex Stakes) and Star Catcher (QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes).
He has won every British Classic at least twice, although it took him 15 attempts to win the Derby. He finally cracked that on Authorized in 2007. Golden Horn provided him with a second Derby triumph in 2015.
His 3,000th victory was achieved at his beloved Newmarket a couple of years later and Frankie’s not finished yet.
In 2021 Dettori became just the second jockey to reach 50 QIPCO British Champions Series wins in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot aboard Palace Pier.