Frankie Dettori: five of his most memorable rides

Golden Horn

Dettori was at his brilliant best in last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

 By Steve Dennis 8:40PM 12 AUG 2016 

ON THE day Frankie Dettori rode his 3,000th winner in Britain, Steve Dennis looks back at five of his greatest rides

Frankie Dettori celebrates on Fujiyama Crest

Frankie Dettori celebrates on Fujiyama Crest in September 1996

  PICTURE: Phil Smith/Sporting Life  

Fujiyama Crest
1996 Gordon Carter Handicap, Ascot

Dettori made all on a willing partner, saw off the sustained challenge of the runner-up inside the final furlong and held on by a neck. And so the bare report tells us very little, for this was the culmination of the most extraordinary day’s racing – the Magnificent Seven. When Dettori went out on Fujiyama Crest – a 16-1 chance masquerading as 2-1 favourite – he already had six wins to his name on the day, a remarkable feat but not unique. He probably felt no pressure, surfing a wave of confidence that was outrageous even for him, but nevertheless this was great history in the making, a race newly endowed with great importance, for after all that had gone before he simply had to win this race too. He did not disappoint. No-one who saw it will ever forget this ride.

Fantastic Light (right) and Galileo

Fantastic Light (far side) edges out Galileo in a thriller

  PICTURE: Caroline Norris (  

Fantastic Light
2001 Irish Champion Stakes

One of the great tactical rides. Fantastic Light and Galileo, the two best horses in Europe, had met at Ascot where Galileo prevailed, but this time the tables were turned in thrilling style. Dettori waited on the rail behind pacemaker Give The Slip, and when that horse drifted slightly right on the home turn he pushed Fantastic Light through the gap and into the lead. It was a crucial move; he had first run aboard a top-class galloper, and although Galileo was soon at his girth he could never get nearer. After the finesse came the fury – Dettori drove his mount to the line with unflinching strength and determination. “I’d done my job to the best of my ability,” said Dettori – and it showed.

Golden Horn (Frankie Dettori) wins the Derby

Golden Horn and Frankie Dettori winning last year’s Derby

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

Golden Horn
2015 Derby

This would not rank among Dettori’s great technical feats of riding – he was on the best horse in the race and enjoyed a straightforward run through – but as far as personal satisfaction goes it is arguably top of the heap. Two years earlier he was the forgotten man of racing, now here he was again on the greatest stage, the hero of the hour in his rightful place. He pushed out Golden Horn into a glory he must have thought would never come again, and all the more memorable for it. “It was the best emotion I ever had,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “For a million reasons. Coming back from being so down, from nearly quitting, to find another chance, a Derby favourite and winning: it was tremendous. It was my renaissance.”

Golden Horn

Dettori returns to the Longchamp winners’ enclosure on Golden Horn

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

Golden Horn
2015 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

If the Derby win was his renaissance, Longchamp was where he returned to his peak. Golden Horn was drawn unsuitably wide and there was punditry about how Dettori might endeavour to overcome that disadvantage. No-one foresaw what he would eventually do – he kept straight from the stalls, shunning the early scramble for position, and when after a couple of furlongs he angled towards the field he did so to slot in behind the pacemaker and avoid the habitual trouble in running that is a feature of the race. That put his mount in prime position to utilise his proven stamina and when the race began in earnest Dettori kicked on, and nothing could catch him.

Sergeant Cecil 2006 Lonsdale Cup

Sergeant Cecil and Dettori light up York

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham (  

Sergeant Cecil
2006 Lonsdale Cup

It was Dettori’s first ride on Britain’s favourite stayer of the time, who had his quirks, notably his need to be settled in the early stages of his races. Dettori performed that task well, dropping him out last, but when the time came to move up Sergeant Cecil didn’t go. He wallowed in his usual flat spot and Dettori could have been forgiven for panic, but he kept his head, sat down in the saddle and drove the old soldier along until his overdrive kicked in. When it did, all was soon well, victory by half a length, Dettori’s patient perseverance the key.

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