When Is Frankie Dettori Likely to Retire From Horseracing?
That’s the question on the lips of many flat horseracing fans and pundits alike. The enigmatic Italian has been at the peak of his jockey powers for three decades. Many liken him to the late great Lester Piggott, as the finest flat race jockey of the modern-day era. At the age of 51, Dettori would be forgiven for thinking about retirement, but he’s still very much active on the circuit. In fact, he would go on to win the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at the 2022 Royal Ascot which, according to oddschecker’s list of top events, still ranks as one of the top-five meetings in the UK horseracing calendar.
Just two months later, Dettori rode Trawlerman to victory in the Ebor Handicap at York, landing the £300,000 first prize. It was a poignant win for Dettori, given that he joined forces with trainer John Gosden once again, just weeks after a public fall-out between the pair which saw Dettori take the freelance route having worked in tandem with Gosden for many years. Post-race, Gosden described the fall-out between the two as the same as a football manager who benches a star player and reacts badly.
Gosden revealed that voicing his displeasure with Dettori’s performance at Royal Ascot has had a positive effect on the Italian’s recent form. Gosden admitted he was exasperated at not being able to “get [Dettori] to concentrate” at this year’s festival and the “public warning” appears to have refocused hearts and minds. Gosden added that when Dettori is “in the zone”, the veteran remains “absolutely top class”. Equally, Gosden described Dettori as a “menace” when he’s not at the top of his game.
The above comments from Gosden suggest that there is still life in the Gosden-Dettori partnership after all. When the relationship appeared fractured in the summer, reports suggested that Dettori had taken the freelance route to be free to enter some of the most iconic overseas races before he retires for good. Dettori even admitted recently at a charity race for retired star jockeys that he would soon be eligible for the event. However, recent victories with Gosden may just have kept that fire burning bright deep within.
Dettori certain to continue into the 2023 season
Even at the height of his frustrations at his long-time partner, Gosden, Dettori confirmed that he planned to continue racing into the 2023 season and then assess his options. Dettori has had some bookings overseas in Istanbul as well as the German Derby, while the Italian has also been in demand stateside with additional weekend bookings at Saratoga and Belmont Park.
Several high-profile trainers spoke out in Dettori’s defence in recent weeks. Aidan O’Brien, who has seen the Italian land several Group 1 winners for him throughout the years, described him as a “great rider” and “still is”. Meanwhile Hugo Palmer, another Classic-winner with Dettori, said Dettori remains the “only jockey alive” that can “reasonably claim” the tag of the “greatest [jockey] of all time”.
The biggest wins of Frankie Dettori’s career to date
Dettori’s career has long been characterised by his finest achievement in UK horseracing – landing the so-called ‘Magnificent Seven’ and winning all seven races in a meeting as part of Royal Ascot in 1996.
The odds of that happening on the day were said to be 25,051/1. One lucky bettor wagered on Dettori achieving this highly unlikely feat, earning him a payday of £500,000. It was a remarkable outcome, which included a landmark win in the iconic Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
It was a day that would put Dettori firmly on the British horseracing map. Although he had been racing for a handful of years, the Magnificent Seven was a moment in time that cemented him in the sport’s folklore forever. Not only was Dettori the toast of punters that day, he was also the scourge of the British bookies, who lost millions of pounds off the back of successive wins, many at short prices too.
His first win of that meeting was on board 2/1 favourite Wall Street, with the three-year-old colt proving easy for the Italian to tame to land the Cumberland Lodge Stakes. He followed that up with one of his most impressive victories of the day next. Diffident went into the 1996 Royal Ascot meeting with a set of frustrating performances. However, Diffident was inspired by Dettori to take the Diadem Stakes at pre-race odds of 12/1.
The third race was a heads-up battle between Dettori and Mark of Esteem and Henry Cecil’s talented charge Bosra Sham. With only a furlong remaining, it looked like a coinflip as to who would go on to win, but Mark of Esteem came up trumps in the closing stages to land the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and cement himself as Europe’s finest sprinter in 1996.
The fourth race could so easily have been the undoing of Dettori – the 26-runner Tote Festival Handicap. Dettori rode Decorated Hero, a 7/1 shot carrying top weight. It looked to be an uphill struggle on paper. However, Dettori was in the zone once again as he led Decorated Hero to remarkable win by three-and-a-half lengths. It was at this point that many wondered whether the impossible was indeed possible.
The Rosemary Stakes was yet another keenly contested affair. Dettori locked horns with long-time friend and on-course rival, Ray Cochrane, with Fatefully just about inching ahead of Abeyr to make it five wins in succession. At this point, Dettori was the talk of the racing world. With two more races left on the card, could he go on to achieve Ascot immortality?
A maiden win on board two-year-old Lochangel was a sure-fire thing in the Blue Seal Stakes. Lochangel was heavily fancied at this point, with Dettori’s earlier efforts seeing the horse’s odds slashed in to 5/4. It was all down to the seventh and final race of the meeting – the Gordon Carter Handicap. The eyes of Britain were transfixed on Royal Ascot, as Fujiyama Crest proved to be the Italian’s final and most historic mount of this day. Carrying top weight once more, Fujiyama Crest was by no means the ideal pre-race favourite, but Dettori’s exploits saw punters back him in from 12/1 to 2/1, before edging out Northern Fleet in the closing stages to seal a miraculous afternoon’s work for Dettori and connections.
His celebrations that day still live long in the memory of Royal Ascot enthusiasts and many will hope the veteran can provide plenty more before he calls it a day.