Frankie Dettori at Ascot
Originally from Italy, Dettori was born in Milan on December 15th 1970. Horse racing was already running rich through his veins with his father Gianfranco Dettori a 13 times Italian Champion Jockey.
Initially split between his love of football and horse racing as a youngster, Dettori left school at the age of 13 to work at racing stables locally before moving to the UK to work at Luca Cumani’s stables in 1985.
It wouldn’t long before Dettori would be in the saddle on returning to Italy winning his first race in Turin in 1986 before transferring back to the Cumani stables and beginning his career as an apprentice at 16 years old in the Spring of 1987.
At that stage little would people know what a 16 year old Frankie Dettori would go on to achieve after his first win as an apprentice aboard Lizzy Hare at Goodwood that same year for the Cumani stable.
Roll forward 36 years and Dettori has now ridden 287 winners at Group One level. He’s claimed some of the greatest flat races in the world including The Arc, The Breeders Cup and a whopping 9 Ascot Gold Cups.
We take a look through the stages of Frankie’s glittering career and pick out his top 5 runners that have helped shape the career of the 52 year old Italian.
Markofdistinction - A First Ever Group One Winner
Dettori was quick to make an impression in the UK racing ranks and in 1990 was the quickest teenager to win 100 races in a season since the great Lestor Piggott. He would go one to register 140 that season placing him fourth in the jockey’s championship behind Pat Eddery, Willie Carson and Steve Cauthen.
At just 19 years of age Dettori took on a full time role of stable jockey for Cummani’s yard based out of Newmarket and he would get his first taste of victory at Royal Ascot aboard a talented 4 year old miler called Markofdistinction.
Markofdistinction would be the first of a number of winners at Ascot for Dettori but would also be his first Group One winner for the Italian. The pair would return to Ascot in the Autumn and take out the Group One Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
While Markofdistinction would get the ball rolling on Frankie’s love affair with racing Ascot he would also win another Group One title on the same day he would his first with victory aboard Shamshir whose owner Sheikh Mohammed would become a big admirer of the Italian’s work.
Dubai Millennium - Taking Dettori Global
Dettori’s stock really went up through the levels when he signed for Godolphin in 1994. Sheikh Mohammad formally opened Godolphin operations that year and Dettori was appointed the stable's primary track rider.
That deal would give Dettori access to some of the worlds best sprinters and was able to win Group One titles with a number of hugely talented runners such as Balanchine, Daylami, Swain and Lammtarra for the Royal Blue stable.
There would be one horse in particular that Dettori would find great success with, Dubai Millennium.
In October 1998 Dettori partnered with Dubai Millennium for his first start and maiden victory at Yarmouth and many believe that the colt was and most likely is one of the best horses ever to racing finishing with a timeform rating of 140.
Dubai Millennium initially start life with trainer David Loder and saw out his two year old campaign there before being transferred to the Saeed Bin Suroor stable and the main Godolphin operation at 3.
Even as a three year old Dubai Millennium would rack up Group One wins for Dettori which included another Queen Elizabeth II Stakes stakes at Ascot as well a Prix Jacques le Marois in France.
Dubai Millennium would really take the pair on a real adventure during his racing career for the Godolphin team as Dettori would pilot the horse to an emphatic victory in the Dubai World Cup.
The Godolphin runner would set the track record on dirt at Nad Al Sheba on his first run in the middle east and much had been made of a chance to watch Dubai Millennium go head to head with a talented American horse in the form of Behrens.
It turned out to be a cake walk for the Italian and his Godolphin ride as the pair would boot clear and win the Dubai World Cup by over 8 lengths.
There had been talk that Dubai Millennium could have travelled down under to take on Australia’s best at one stage however any chance of a tilt at the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley were short lived in favour of returning for a British Autumn campaign at Ascot.
Authorized - Delivering The Derby
Through his twenties and for much of his thirties Godolphin and Dettori would achieve unprecedented levels of success however there was one race that had eluded him throughout his time with Godolphin, The Derby.
While his partnership with Dubai Millennium and Godolphin had been fruitful in claiming all other British Flat Racing Classics, Frankie was well into his 30s and still yet to claim the most prestigious one.
Dubai Millennium was one of 14 attempts that failed to win the Derby with Frankie and it wasn’t until Peter Chapple-Hyam trained Authorized would arrive on the scene and finally give Dettori the win he craved so much at the 15th time of asking.
Like always the Italian would get off to a strong start with Authorized when the pair won the Racing Post Trophy at 25/1 odds. That win installed the Chapple-Hyam runner as one of the favourites for the Derby as a result.
After following that up with an impressive win in the Dante at York Racecourse the pair were installed as $2.25 favourites for the Derby. Dettori and Authorized wouldn’t disappoint the crowd with the pair scoring by over 5 lengths.
Enable - The Start Of The Gosden Era
After Authorized Dettori would go on to win a second Derby with Golden Horn however his association with Godolphin would finish as the royal blue stable would extend their reaches across the Globe and look to the likes of William Buick and James Doyle to take up reigns from the mid 2010s.
Dettori would move on to renew an old partnership with trainer John Gosden whom the jockey had already worked under as a retained rider in his 20s in the mid 90s.
Where Gosden had a few lean years with runners, the resurgence of Dettori as a primary stable rider as well as two gun horses entering the stable gave the pair a gateway to some of their best career wins.
Golden Horn would be the first big stable runner to land Dettori Group One riches including a second Derby. The trio would go on to win the Eclipse, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in a single season but the achievements of Golden Horn would be far eclipsed by that of stablemate Enable.
Enable was one of those freak horses, like Black Caviar, Frankle or Winx. Frankie would ride Enable to an unprecedented three King George Stakes at Royal Ascot, Two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victories, which gave Dettori a record 6 wins in the race overall and a total of 11 Group One races overall.
The relationship Dettori had with Enable was much like the one that Hugh Bowman had with Winx in running for an extended number of seasons rather than being retired early after a number of top flight wins.
The relationship between Enable and Dettori was a special one that lasted over 4 years and finished with 14 wins and 2 seconds from 17 starts.
Palace Pier - Still Going Strong Past 50
Palace Pier has been one of Dettori’s twilight stars having won a number of Group One’s in his three year old career and even achieved a rating of 132 which placed him amongst the world’s best sprinters.
Even when Dettori passed his 50th birthday in December of 2020, he and Palace Pier for John Gosden would continue to perform at the highest level winning the Lockinge Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes and a second Prix Jacques le Marois.
It would only be the worlds highest rated Sprinter, Baaeed who would lower the colours of Palace Pier in her final swansong race.
Frankie closed out his Ascot career with four wins at the Royal festival in the UK, however having seen himself suspended for breach of whip rules at that festival it looks as though his career will only extend abroad.
He has a final Breeders Cup campaign coming up in early November and then it’ll full steam ahead to one final Australian Campaign which could indeed be the 52 year olds final outing competitively in the saddle.
Frankie is set to have rides in the Derby, The Oaks and on Champions Mile day but the one he’s after is the Melbourne Cup having drawn a blank on the previous 17 attempts at the race that stops the nation.
Can he find another special horse to round of an emphatic career in racing?