Veteran Italian jockey Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori has ridden his fair share of Group One winners in his career – nearly 250 at the last count, including a personal best tally of 17 in 2019 – and has the distinction of being the most successful jockey in the history of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Indeed, in the last three decades, Dettori has ridden in every renewal of the most valuable race in Europe bar 2013 – when a broken ankle sustained in a fall at Nottingham four days before the race prevented him from riding impressive winner Treve – and performed his trademark flying dismount at Longchamp, and Chantilly, six times.
Dettori recorded his first victory in 1995, aboard undefeated Cartier Three-year-old of the Year, Lammtara, trained for Godolphin by Saeed bin Suroor, following the tragic death of his original trainer, Alex Scott. His second and third wins came in rapid succession, on two more Godolphin acquisitions, Sakhee in 2001 and Marienbard in 2002, both trained by Saeed bin Suroor. However, having ended his association with Godolphin a decade later, Dettori had to wait until 2015 to ride his fourth ‘Arc’ winner. That year, he teamed up with his old ally John Gosden to win on Cartier Horse of the Year, Golden Horn, and in 2017 and 2018 recorded back-to-back victories on Enable, for the same trainer.
Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori is the son of Sardinian native Gianfranco Dettori, himself a prolific jockey in Italy and elsewhere. Indeed Dettori Snr. was champion jockey in Italy thirteen times and won the Derby Italiano, or Italian Derby, at Capannelle, twice. In Britain, Gianfranco Dettori is best remembered for recording back-to-back victories in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Bolkonski in 1975 and Wollow in 1976. Both colts were owned by top Italian owner Carlo d’Alessio and trained by Henry Cecil.
Dettori Snr. never won the Derby but, in 1976, the hitherto unbeaten Wollow was sent off 11/10 favourite for the Epsom Classic, despite attempting the mile-and-a-half Derby distance for the first time. Wollow suffered some minor interference as the field negotiated the downhill, left-handed bend at Tattenham Corner, but never really looked like picking up the leaders and eventually finished fifth. Victory went to Lester Piggott, aboard the French-trained Empery, who was winning the race for the seventh time. For the record, Lanfranco Dettori has won the Derby twice, on Authorized, trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, in 2007 and Golden Horn, trained by John Gosden, in 2014.
The name of Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori became synonymous with that of Ascot Racecourse when, on September 28, 1996, the Italian jockey completed his so-called ‘Magnificent Seven’ by winning all seven races on the Festival of British Racing card. Dettori, 49, rode his first Royal Ascot winner, Markofdistinction, in the Queen Anne Stakes, in 1990 and 30 years later, in 2020, hit the headlines once again at the Royal Meeting.
Quoted at 20/1 to win the Royal Ascot Leading Jockey Award before the start of the fifth and final day, Dettori completed a 150/1 treble, courtesy of Campanelle in the Queen Mary Stakes, Alpine Star in the Coronation Stakes and Palace Pier in the St. James’s Palace Stakes. In so doing, he took his winning tally to six for the week, edging out Jim Crowley on placings, to win his second consecutive title and his seventh in all. Furthermore, Dettori took his career total at Royal Ascot to 73 winners, making him the joint-second most successful jockey at the prestigious meeting, alongside the late Pat Eddery and behind only the legendary Lester Piggott; Piggott retired from race riding in 1995, long before the Royal Meeting was extended to five days in 2002, but still rode an astonishing 116 winners.
In Britain, the minimum riding weight is 8st 0lb for Flat jockeys and 10st 0lb for National Hunt jockeys, although apprentice or conditional jockeys can claim a 7lb allowance, which reduces the minimum riding weight to 7st 7lb and 9st 7lb, respectively. Consequently, while there are no rules or regulations regarding height, most male jockeys riding on the Flat in Britain are significantly shorter than average height – that is, 5’10” – simply because taller riders struggle to meet the weight requirements.
According to reigning champion trainer John Gosden, Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori, who stands 5’3” tall and can ride at 8st 6lb, or 8st 7lb, is ‘perfectly proportioned’ for a jockey. Indeed, Dettori is just an inch taller than the average Flat jockey and, although 5lb or 6lb heavier than average – after all, he is 48 years old and entering the twilight years of his career – Gosden was keen to point out the importance of a suitable physique and strength-to-weight ratio in any jockey. Generally speaking, Flat jockeys typically stand between 4’10” and 5’6” tall and weigh in between 7st 10lb and 8st 6lb – or, in other words, 5’2” and 8st 1lb, respectively, on average – but also need to be extremely fit, with an abundance of core, leg and shoulder strength.