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.
Bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms, under the auspices of Khalid Abdullah, and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel won five times at Ascot in all, but just two of those victories came at Royal Ascot. Indeed, on the first occasion, as a three-year-old, on June 14, 2011, Frankel came as close to defeat as he did in his entire 14-race career. Fresh from an impressive 6-length win in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Galileo colt was sent off at 30/100 to win the St. James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal Meeting. However, having taken a 6-length lead with a quarter of a mile to run, Frankel was quickly coming back to his rivals inside the final half a furlong and had to be ridden out by jockey Tom Queally to beat 20/1 chance Zoffany, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, by three-quarters of a length.
The following season, as a four-year-old, Frankel contested the opening Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, for which he started a hugley prohibitive 1/10. Nevertheless, his cramped odds proved entirely justified as he soon quickened clear, despite drifting slightly right in the closing stages, for an extremely impressive 11-length win over old rival Excelebration; in so doing, Frankel achieved the highest rating ever achieved by a Flat horse in the history of Timeform.
In the long, illustrious history of Royal Ascot, Lester Piggott is, far and away, the most successful jockey. Notwithstanding the fact that the Royal Meeting was not extended to five days until 2002 – seven years after Piggott retired for the second, and final, time in 1995 – ‘The Long Fella’ racked up a total of 116 winners.
However, the most successful current jockey at Royal Ascot is Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori, who stands head and shoulders above his contemporaries with 67 winners. Dettori rode his first Royal Ascot winner, Markofdistinction, trained by Luca Cumani, in the Queen Anne Stakes – at the time it was still a Group Two contest open to horses aged three years and upwards – as a 19-year-old in 1990. In the meantime, the Italian jockey has ridden a total of 24 Group One winners at the Royal Meeting and been leading jockey six times, most recently in 2019. Indeed, on ‘Ladies’ Day’ in 2019, Dettori rode a four-timer – a feat last achieved by Piggott himself in 1965 – which contributed to his total of seven winners.
On June 19, 2012, Frankel recorded what the Racing Post reported as an ‘extremely impressive’ 11-length victory over Excelebration in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and, in so doing, became the highest-rated horse in the history of Timeform, which first published ratings in ‘Racehorses of 1948’. As confirmed in ‘Racehorses of 2012’, Frankel was awarded a rating of 147, 2lb superior to Sea-Bird, who was beaten just once in an eight-race career in 1964 and 1965 and awarded a rating of 145 after winning all five starts as a three-year-old. Sea-Bird raced just once in Britain, effortlessly beating Meadow Court and twenty other rivals by two lengths in the Derby without coming off the bridle.
Later in 1965, Sea-Bird was sent off 6/5 favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, despite facing the strongest field of middle-distance talent ever assembled, including the hitherto unbeaten Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby, winner Reliance. Despite sweating profusely in the preliminaries, Sea-Bird was travelling well in fifth place approaching the home straight and, thereafter, came clear of his rivals along with the eventual runner-up, Reliance. Sea-Bird veered alarmingly across the track in the last half a furlong or so, but still won by an official margin of six lengths, with Australian-born jockey Pat Glennon patting him down the neck in the closing stages.