Milanese jockey Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori, 48, has been riding winners in Britain since 1987 and in 2016 reached the milestone of 3,000 winners in this country. Originally apprenticed to Luca Cumani, Dettori won the Apprentice Jockeys’ Championship in 1989 and in 1990 became the first teenager since Lester Piggott to ride over 100 winners – 141, to be precise – in a season.
Four years later, in 1994, Dettori was offered a retainer with the Godolphin operation, founded by Sheikh Mohammed in 1992 and, in the famous royal blue silks, would ride 110 Group One, or Grade One, winners over the next 18 years. He would become known for his ‘flying dismount’ – apparently borrowed from Puerto Rican jockey Angel Cordero Jnr. – and, aside from his riding ability, for his effervescent, gregarious personality, which made him a celebrity who transcended horse racing.
Dettori has won the jockeys’ championship three times, in 1994, 1995 and 2004, but is probably best remembered for his so-called ‘Magnificent Seven’. On British Champions’ Day at Ascot in 1996, Dettori went ‘through the card’, riding seven winners from as many rides, at accumulative odds of over 25,000/1. All in all, Dettori has won 17 English ‘Classics’, although it did take 14 unsuccessful attempts before he won the Derby, on Authorized, trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, in 2007.
Having found himself regularly sidelined by Mickael Barzalona and Silvestre de Sousa, who were hired by Sheikh Mohammed in the spring of 2012, Dettori announced his decision to leave Godolphin the following season to ride on a freelance basis. In September, though, he tested positive for a banned substance, which he later admitted was cocaine, during a routine examination at Longchamp and was subsequently suspended from riding for six months.
On his return to the saddle, after a brief period riding as a freelance, Dettori was appointed first jockey to Al Shaqab Racing, founded by Qatari royal Sheikh Joaan al Thani, in July, 2013. The association lasted for five years but, in July, 2018, Dettori – who had already agreed to a substantial pay cut the previous January – announced that it had come to an end. In recent years, Dettori has resumed his association with his old friend and ally John Gosden, who has provided the bulk of his rides and several high-profile winners, including Golden Horn, Cracksman and Enable.