Old friends hoping to send Dettori out in a blaze of glory

By Sports Desk October 20, 2023

Frankie Dettori will have the support of a number of old allies when he bids for a memorable farewell on Qipco British Champions Day.

The Italian will jet off for a number of international engagements before his American move after Ascot’s end-of-season showpiece on Saturday – and it is appropriate the 52-year-old will close the European chapter of his career at a venue that has played host to some of the most notable moments in a journey featuring over 3,300 winners.

As well as 81 winners at Royal Ascot, the Berkshire track was also the scene of his first Group One triumph and the place he famously went through the card in 1996 for the 25,095-1 ‘Magnificent Seven’.

He will bow out after partnering King Of Steel in the feature Qipco Champion Stakes, but fittingly, will begin his swansong adorned in the royal blue of his former employers Godolphin aboard Trawlerman.

Many of Dettori’s finest hours have come when riding for Sheikh Mohammed’s organisation, and Hugh Anderson, managing director of Godolphin, is in no doubt about his place in racing history.

He said: “Nothing is certain with Mr Dettori, but it looks like it will be his last ride for us, certainly in 2023, and for me personally and for Godolphin, Frankie Dettori has been a huge part of our history.

“Long before I came to Godolphin myself, back in 1996, I was on my brother’s stag do when he won all seven including the QEII. I sort of feel personally that I go back a long way with him and it has been a huge joy and a privilege to be associated with him in the time I’ve been at Godolphin.

“For my whole adult life – and I’m a little bit older than Frankie – he has been the top jockey or one of the top jockeys in this country and I think his contribution to the sport has been incalculable.

“I’m very pleased he is going to be wearing Godolphin blue on what is potentially his last Champions Day and we hope he does well.”

Trawlerman claimed the 2022 Ebor under an inspired ride from Dettori and Anderson is hoping to see one final moment of magic aboard the John and Thady Gosden-trained outsider.

“Let’s hope he runs better than his odds,” he continued. “He’s a pretty good horse and Frankie has done wonders with him. Particularly, if you remember the Ebor when he had to come up with a cunning plan with John Gosden having been drawn on the far side of the track.

“You can’t predict the Dettori story, but you can predict it will be fun. Racing is better with Dettori in it and we wish him all the best.”

Dettori steered Enable to an unprecedented three wins in the King George at Ascot – as well as two in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – and will link-up with her owners Juddmonte in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – a race he has won on six occasions.

He has been the ‘go-to’ man for the Abdullah family’s racing operation over the years and he now renews his association with Chaldean, who provided both Dettori and Juddmonte with Classic success in the 2000 Guineas earlier in the year.

“Frankie has been an integral part of Juddmonte for 20 years, so it would be special if we could provide him with a winner on his last weekend at Ascot – and no one knows their way around Ascot better than Frankie,” said Barry Mahon, European racing manager for the owners.

“Over the years he’s been brilliant. In recent times Enable and (2019 St Leger winner) Logician are two that come straight to mind and I remember him winning on Enable and Expert Eye at the Breeders’ Cup a couple of seasons ago – what a special night that was.

“He’s been top-class for over 20 years and he’ll be hard to replace. He was always our go-to man when we got into Group Ones or Classics when he was available.”

However, this may not be the last of Dettori riding for Juddmonte, who have a thriving and expanding team of talent in America.

“He’s an unbelievable talent, hopefully he’ll have a good winter in America and maybe we will see him next year,” added Mahon.

“He’s already been on at me trying to recruit a few horses for California. Every time he rides a winner for us he tells me ‘that would do well in California!’. It shows his appetite is still there.”

Dettori had to wait until 2017 to first get his hands on the Champion Stakes trophy aboard eventual dual winner Cracksman and his quest for a third victory in the race on Roger Varian’s King Of Steel will bring the curtain down, perhaps only briefly, on his 37-year career in Britain.

The Milan-native was the man on top when Varian saddled his first Group One winner in 2011 and 12 years on, the Newmarket trainer is delighted to have the services of “the ultimate professional” aboard his stable star.

Varian said: “You can get wrapped up in it being Frankie’s last Ascot ride etc., but I don’t think any of us will be thinking about that too much, even Frankie. As he gets on the horse and heads to start it’s just another day at the office and he’s the ultimate professional when the goggles come down.

“We’re happy to have him on our horse on Saturday, and on the big day, when the goggles come down, he’s one of the very best there has ever been and the season he’s had tells everyone he is still riding at the top of his game.

“He rode us our first ever Group One winner which was Nahrain in the Prix de l’Opera back in 2011, so at the top level it started with Frankie in the saddle and he’s ridden for us all around the world on occasion, if not regularly. Why wouldn’t you turn to him if the situation suits?”

Free Wind for his long-time ally John Gosden and another familiar equine face in Kinross – the horse he labelled his “cash machine”, so often does he deliver – complete Dettori’s Champions Day book of rides, as he hopes to perform his flying dismount celebration once more before he packs up his kit from the Ascot weighing room.

And the man himself will be doing his level best to not let emotions run away with him as he waves goodbye to a country in which he has become a household name.

He said: “It’s a premier raceday where we crown our champions of the year and it will be my last day of riding in England. I don’t want to take the gloss off Qipco British Champions Day, it coronates the best horses of the year – the best fillies, colts, milers, middle-distance and long-distance horses.

“It will be very emotional, but I am set to have four or five decent rides on the day. So, I’ll try to keep my emotions in check until after my last ride, but obviously all my friends and family will be there.

“I’m sure I’ll shed a tear on the day, but at the moment I’m really trying to focus on the races and give my friends and family something to shout about on the day.”

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