Frankie Dettori

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Lanfranco "Frankie" Dettori MBE (Italian pronunciation: [laɱˈfraŋko detˈtoːri]; born 15 December 1970), is an Italian jockey who was based in England for a career spanning over 35 years. He was British flat racing Champion Jockey three times (1994, 1995 and 2004) and rode the winners of 287 Group 1 races including 23 winners of the British Classic Races. His most celebrated achievement was riding all seven winners on British Festival of Racing Day at Ascot Racecourse on 28 September 1996.

Frankie Dettori
MBE
Frankie Dettori in 2005
OccupationJockey
Born (1970-12-15) 15 December 1970 (age 53)
Milan, Italy
Height5 ft 4 in (1.63 m)
Major racing wins
List
Honours
Honorary MBE (2001)
Significant horses
Golden Horn, Grandera, Singspiel, Daylami, Swain, Balanchine, Wilko, Raven's Pass, Electrocutionist, Dubai Millennium, Joshua Tree, Cape Verdi, Kazzia, Blue Bunting, Falbrav, Island Sands, Drum Taps, Kayf Tara, Authorized, Lammtarra, Lawman, Almutawakel, Marienbard, Refuse To Bend, Halling, Sakhee, Sulamani, Aljabr, Shamardal, Scorpion, Conduit, Ramonti, Olympic Glory, Bahamian Bounty, Shalaa, Ouija Board, Lochsong, Balanchine, Fantastic Light, Intikhab, Starborough, Lady Aurelia, Galileo Gold, Enable, Stradivarius
Website
frankiedettori.com
Frankie Dettori in the parade ring at 'Glorious Goodwood' in August 2004
Frankie Dettori in the parade ring at Newmarket after riding in the 2000 Guineas 2005

Born in Milan, Dettori is the son of Italian champion jockey Gianfranco Dettori. At the age of fourteen he went to Newmarket in England to work first as a stable lad, later as apprentice jockey and stable jockey in the yard of Luca Cumani, winning the British champion apprentice jockey in 1989. He was appointed stable jockey for Sheikh Mohammed's newly-founded Godolphin Racing in 1994 and during the next eighteen years rode most of his worldwide big race victories in Godolphin's royal-blue colours. In 2000 he survived a light aircraft crash at Newmarket.

At the end of 2012, Dettori split from Godolphin Racing, and was suspended from riding for six months after failing a drugs test in France. From June 2013 to July 2018, he was the retained rider in Britain for Sheikh Joaan Al Thani's Al Shaqab Racing. Since then, many of his winners including Enable and Stradivarius have come from the stables of John Gosden. Dettori announced in December 2022 that 2023 would be his final year of professional riding. In December 2023 he moved to California to continue to race in the United States and on the international circuit.

Outside of racing he has worked in TV, appearing as a team captain on A Question of Sport from 2002 to 2004, and opened several Italian restaurants in partnership with chef Marco Pierre White.

Early life

Dettori was born in Milan, Italy, on 15 December 1970.: 15  His father, Gianfranco Dettori, was a 13 times Italian Champion Jockey, who had won the British 2,000 Guineas in 1975 on the Henry Cecil trained Bolkonski and in 1976 on Wollow, also trained by Cecil. His mother Mara was a circus performer. Soon after his birth, Dettori's parents divorced. Until he was five, Dettori and his sister lived with their mother; after that they lived with their father and stepmother.: 3  As a child, Dettori was more interested in football than racing, but that changed when he was eight and his father bought him a palomino pony called Silvia. Aged nine, he rode Silvia in the Pony Derby at San Siro racecourse; he came last and fell off after the finishing line.: 5 

Dettori left school aged thirteen to work in racing stables and, in July 1985, left Italy for England to work in the yard of trainer Luca Cumani at Newmarket, Suffolk|Newmarket.: 12  It was at first a culture shock, as he had to adapt to a new language, and strange food and drink such as Heinz tinned ravioli and orange squash.: 5  Dettori returned to Italy for the winter of 1986/87 and his first win came on Turin racecourse in November 1986.

Career

Early career in Newmarket

In the spring of 1987 Dettori was back in Cumani's yard in Newmarket and started to ride in Britain as an apprentice jockey. His first win in Britain came at Goodwood on 9 June 1987, riding Lizzy Hare to for Cumani.: 20  That season he rode eight winners, before spending the winter of 1987/88 in California, employed as a work rider for the trainer Richard Cross.: 20  While in California Dettori was taught by jockey Ángel Cordero Jr. how to do a flying dismount, something that would later become his trademark.: 21  In 1989 Dettori became champion apprentice jockey with 75 wins and rode his first winner of a group race, Legal Case in the Select Stakes at Goodwood.: 22  In the spring of 1990 he took up a position of stable jockey to Cumani.: 23  That year he rode eight Group 1 winners for Cumani, and four for other trainers, including Henry Cecil. Markofdistinction provided him with his first win at Royal Ascot in June 1990 and his first Group 1 win in September. Still only nineteen, Dettori became the first teenager since Lester Piggott to win more than 100 races in a season, finishing on a total of 149, fourth in the champion jockey table.: 27 

The 1991 and 1992 seasons saw fewer winners as Cumani had lost many of his best horses when major owner the Aga Khan removed his horses from training in England.: 27  In 1992 Dettori won the Prix du Jockey Club on Polytain, trained by Antonio Spanu in France, and the Ascot Gold Cup on Drum Taps, trained by Lord Huntingdon.: 27  Before the beginning of the 1993 season he lost his position with Cumani, over his failure to let the trainer know that he was considering taking up the offer of a lucrative contract in Hong Kong.: 27  By now Dettori was enjoying a party lifestyle and in April 1993 was arrested in London for possession of cocaine, which put paid to his prospective contract to ride in Hong Kong. Dettori was given a police caution for the cocaine offence, after which he concentrated on racing with a renewed dedication, riding 149 winners as a free-lance in 1993.: 28-29  There was a second victory in the Ascot Gold Cup on Drum Taps, and two Group 1 wins on the sprint mare Lochsong, trained by Ian Balding.

The Godolphin years

In September 1993, Dettori was signed to ride Sheikh Mohammed's horses trained by Gosden.: 27  Determined to secure the 1994 jockey championship, Dettori took a break in Morocco to get fit for the beginning of the all-weather season in January and get a head start on jockeys who only rode on turf.: 42-43  By the end of the 1994 season, he had ridden 233 British winners and won the first of his three jockey championships. His first British Classic success came in the 1994 Epsom Oaks on Godolphin filly Balanchine, trained by Saeed bin Suroor. Three weeks later the pair won the Irish Derby at The Curragh. In November 1994 Sheikh Mohammed's Cumani-trained Barathea provided Dettori with the first of his fourteen Breeders' Cup victories, winning the Breeders' Cup Mile. When Sheikh Mohammed set up the Godolphin international racing operation in 1994, Dettori, who had already ridden the Sheikh's horses in training with Gosden, was signed as retained jockey. The association would last eighteen years.

In 1995,Dettori was again champion jockey. Godolphin horses provided him with two more British Classic victories, Moonshell and Classic Cliche in the St Leger, while Lammtarra won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. His St Leger win also provided him with his 1000th win in Britain.: 65 

On 28 September 1996 Dettori achieved a remarkable feat when he "went through the card", riding all seven winners at the British Festival of Racing (a precursor to British Champions Day) at Ascot racecourse. Dettori's 25,095-1 "magnificent seven" made him a household name and cost the betting industry an estimated £40 million. Twenty years later he would refer to it as his greatest sporting achievement.

On 1 June 2000, Dettori and fellow jockey Ray Cochrane were aboard a Piper Seneca plane which crashed on take off at Newmarket on its way to Goodwood in Sussex. Cochrane pulled Dettori from the wreckage but was unable to save pilot Patrick Mackey. Dettori suffered a broken ankle and facial cuts and spent several days in Addenbrooke's Hospital

After the plane crash, Dettori devoted less time to racing and more time to TV work on A Question of Sport. Although still riding successfully in the big races, he had in his own words become a part-timer. It was his wife who encouraged him to get back to riding in the small meetings as well as the major ones, and, in 2004, he won the jockeys' championship for a third time.

By 2007 Dettori had amassed eleven victories in British Classics (two in the 2000 Guineas, two in the 1000 Guineas, three in the Oaks and four in the St Leger) but a win in the Derby still eluded him after fourteen attempts. On 2 June 2007, released for the occasion from his contractual duties with Godolphin, he rode the favourite Authorized to a comfortable win for trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam. "I had to pinch myself crossing the line to make sure it was real not a dream", said Dettori.

Dettori's relationship with Godolphin was under increasing strain by 2012. In the spring of that year, Godolphin hired two younger jockeys, Mickaël Barzalona and Silvestre de Sousa, to ride alongside Dettori who found himself "jocked off" in big races. In October, Dettori rode Camelot for Godolphin's rival Coolmore Stud in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and later the same month Godolphin announced that they would not be continuing Dettori's retainer the following year.

Later career

In December 2012 Dettori was given a six-month suspension after a failed a drug test in France in September. He admitted to having used cocaine, telling Clare Balding in an interview on Channel 4:"Things were going bad, I was depressed and I guess a moment of weakness and I fell for it and I've only got myself to blame". Following his six-month ban, Dettori made his racing comeback at Epsom on 31 May 2013. A week later, he won his first race since the ban, riding Asian Trader at Sandown. That month he was signed as retained rider in Britain for Sheikh Joaan Al Thani's Al Shaqab Racing. In 2016, Dettori rode Galileo Gold to win the 2000 Guineas for Al Shaqab Racing.

Dettori also re-established an association with trainer Gosden, notably securing victories on Golden Horn in the 2015 Derby and Enable in the 2017 Oaks and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. In 2018 Dettori decided to end his formal association with Al Shaqab Racing in order to concentrate on riding for Gosden. He rode the Juddmonte-owned Enable to further Group 1 victories, including another win in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Also in the colours of Juddmonte, stayer Stadivarius provided Dettori with three consecutive Ascot Gold Cup wins in 2018-2020. The trainer and jockey fell out over Dettori's rides at 2022 Royal Ascot, in particular that on Stradivarius when he was beaten a length into third place in the Gold Cup.

On 17 December 2022 during an interview with ITV Racing, Dettori announced that he would be retiring at the end of the following season, with his final rides likely to come at the November 2023 Breeders' Cup meeting at Santa Anita Park in California. He said that, having just turned 52, he wanted to retire while he was still getting good horses to ride in the big races. By the time he announced his forthcoming retirement, he had ridden 282 Group/Grade 1 winners worldwide, including 21 British Classic winners.

Dettori started his 2023 farewell tour with a ten-week stint in the United States, based at Santa Anita Park for its winter racing. A treble on the first day of the meeting included a win in the San Antonio Stakes on 2022 Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer, trained by Bob Baffert. On a return to Dubai in March, Country Grammer could manage only seventh place in the Dubai World Cup, but on the same evening Dettori won the Group 1 Dubai Turf on the Gosden-trained Lord North.

During the summer of 2023, Dettori added to his tally of British Group 1 and Classic races, winning the 2000 Guineas on 6 May on Chaldean for trainer Andrew Balding and then achieving a double at Epsom on 2 June with wins in the Coronation Cup on Emily Upjohn and the Oaks on Soul Sister (horse), both trained by John and Thady Gosden.

In October 2023, Dettori announced that, instead of retiring, he would be moving to California and continuing to race in the United States and on the international circuit. On what was scheduled to be his final day of racing in Britain, Dettori rode Trawlerman to victory in the Long Distance Cup before completing a double on King of Steel in the Champion Stakes at Ascot on British Champions' Day on 21 October 2023. He also watched as Queen Camilla unveiled a statue of him at the racecourse. In December 2023 he moved to California and had ridden six winners within two weeks. His first Grade 1 win of his stay in California came in March 2024, when he rode Newgate, trained by Baffert, to victory in the Santa Anita Handicap.

TV appearances

Dettori was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1998. Between September 2002 and September 2004 he was one of the team captains on the BBC programme A Question of Sport. During his suspension from racing in 2013, Dettori became a housemate on the eleventh series of Celebrity Big Brother and was the fifth person to be evicted from the house. In November-December 2023, Dettori appeared on the twenty-third series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, entering as a late arrival alongside Tony Bellew. He spent 12 days in the camp before becoming the first contestant to be voted off.

Restaurants

In 2004 Dettori teamed up with chef Marco Pierre White to open a chain of several Italian restaurants called Frankie's Bar and Grill. He has also published a cookbook and produced a line of frozen Italian foods.

Personal life

Dettori married Catherine Allen on 20 July 1997 at the Catholic Church in Newmarket.: 97–98  The couple lived in Stetchworth near Newmarket for 17 years and have five children. In 2006, Dettori added his voice to a campaign to raise jockeys' weights, saying: "I am 5 ft 4 in [1.63 m] and weigh 9 st 9 lb [61 kg; 135 lb] but I have to sometimes go down to 8 st 6 lb [54 kg; 118 lb]." He has also spoken about bulimia and using laxatives and diuretics to keep his weight down. Dettori was awarded an honorary MBE for services to racing in the 2001 New Year Honours (honorary as he is a foreign national). In 2011 Dettori was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science at Anglia Ruskin University.

Major wins

Dettori has won the following world-wide Group/Grade 1 races.

  Great Britain

Frankie Dettori has won every Group 1 race in the UK, except for the July Cup. He won the 1992 Sun Chariot Stakes on Red Slippers and the 1994 King's Stand Stakes on Lochsong when they were Group 2 races; they were subsequently promoted to Group 1 races.

  France


  Qatar

  • Emir's Trophy (Local Group 1) – (2) – Dubday (2014), Dubday (2015)
  • Qatar Gold Trophy (Local Group 1) – (1) – Dubday (2015)

  Germany


  Hungary

  • Kincsem Dij (Local Group 1) – (1) – Splendent (2023)

  Macau

  • Macau Derby – (1) – Royal Treasure (2002)

  Hong Kong


  Trinidad and Tobago

  • Caribbean Champion Stakes – (1) – Bigman in Town (2014)

  South Africa

  • Cape Derby – (1) – Edict of Nantes (2017)

  Ireland


  Italy


  Canada


  United Arab Emirates


  United States


  Japan

  • Japan Cup – (3) – Singspiel (1996), Falbrav (2002), Alkaased (2005)
  • Japan Cup Dirt – (1) – Eagle Cafe (2002)

  Singapore

See also

Notes

References