Taking place every December, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award highlights those at the height of sporting achievement that year. All sports are eligible though the recipient has to be either British or for their sport to be mostly played in this country. A short list of contenders is drawn up and the general public vote for the eventual winner. A who’s who of sports greats have won the competition – which first took place in 1954 – over the years. Stirling Moss, Henry Cooper, Lennox Lewis, Andy Murrow, the list goes on. In 2019 cricketer Ben Stokes took the prize.
So how has the sport of horse racing fared over this period of time? Well, if we extend the classification to horse / equine sports in general, in the early years of BBC Sports Personality, Show Jumping did especially well. In the very first year it was held, Showjumper Pat Smythe came third and in 1960, Welshman David Broome, another Showjumper won the award.
Horse racing waited the longest time to receive Sports Personality recognition. It wasn’t until 1996 that jockey Frankie Dettori came third in the competition (due to his astonishing achievement of riding all seven winners at Ascot – now known as Frankie’s Magnificent Seven). In 2002 fellow jockey Tony Mccoy joined Frankie by grabbing third spot that year. In 2010, off the back of winning the Grand National riding Don’t Push It, he then went two steps better and became the first and only jockey to have won the Sports Personality of the Year award. In 2013 he against featured, this time placing third again.
With such a stellar career it’s no surprise Tony McCoy received recognition on a national level by sports and especially horse racing fans. The Irishman rode over 4000 winners over the course of his career and he was the British jump racing Champion Jockey a staggering 20 years in a row. Grand National aside, he’s also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, King George VI Chase, Queen Mother Champion Chase and countless other high profile races. In 2016 Mccoy was knighted, making him Sir Anthony Peter McCoy.
In 2021, jockey Rachael Blackmore became the first woman to ever win the Aintree Grand National on Minella Times (shamefully it wasn’t until the late 70s that the first female jockey even took part in the Grand National) . This was fresh from winning the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Rachael does most of her racing in Ireland and looks a certainty to win the RTÉ Sports Person of the Year (the Irish version of Sports Personality). Unfortunately it appears that Rachael Blackmore is ineligible for consideration for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2021 accolade. Current favourite for that accolade is Dina Asher-Smith.
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.