Milestones have been commonplace in the career of Lanfranco Dettori MBE and another one came along this week as the world’s most famous jockey turned 50 years of age.
The evergreen Dettori, known to the world as ‘Frankie’ has amassed over 3,200 winners in a 30-year career in the saddle, of which (remarkably) more than 500 have come in Group company.
Dettori is famously described by trainer John Gosden as “probably the greatest international jockey of all time” so to mark the occasion, I thought I would pick out some of my favourite rides of Dettori’s career – and yes, I’m old enough to remember them.
Dubai Millennium (2000)
For many, the best horse Frankie Dettori has ever ridden and understandably the apple of Sheikh Mohammed’s eye.
Dubai Millennium’s date with destiny came in the Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba in March 2000. Stall 11 could have been issue for the Godolphin superstar but terrific gate speed took the four-year-old to the front after a furlong and that’s where he stayed.
Dettori’s began to go through the gears off the home turn and from that point onwards Dubai Millennium turned the race into a procession. It was a performance that will forever live in the memory.
By 2002 Frankie Dettori had already won two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe’s for Godolphin but there weren’t many punters around expecting him to complete the hat-trick on Marienbard who went into the Longchamp showpiece a relatively unfancied 158/10 (almost 16/1) chance, despite the fact that he has already won two Group 1 races that season.
A little further back than ideal, tucked away on the inside throughout, Dettori didn’t panic as he waited for the gaps to appear, smuggling his mount into contention before producing him to perfection in between horses in the final furlong to land the biggest prize of the five-year-old’s career.
It was a ride that perfectly illustrated Dettori’s versatility as a pilot and cemented his position as one the best riders anywhere in the world at that time.
The Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Authorized has to be up there as one of the most important horses of Dettori’s career because he provided the Italian with his first English Derby success, at the 15th attempt.
It was a gilt-edged opportunity for Dettori who had already won the Racing Post Trophy and Dante Stakes on the son of Montjeu and he was sent off a red-hot 5/4 favourite for Epsom’s blue riband event.
Authorized didn’t help his chance with a slow start but Dettori kept his cool and made steady progress around the outside of the field before pressing the button after the two-pole, at which point his mount went into overdrive, storming five lengths clear of his nearest pursuer.
It was an emotional moment for the winning rider who had finally achieved a long-held ambition to win the most famous derby of them all.
Dettori has been fortunate enough to win the Leger on six occasions but in 2008 the racing gods really did shine down on him.
Dettori was the beneficiary of Ryan Moore’s decision to side with Doctor Fremantle and boy did the super-sub make the most of his opportunity. Dettori’s mount cruised through the 1m6f contest before powering home once shaken up to score by a comfortable three-length success.
That was the only time Frankie Dettori got the chance to ride Conduit, who was reunited with Ryan Moore to follow up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf later the same year, a race in which Dettori partnered tenth-placed Red Rocks.
Raven’s Pass (2008)
The 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic was meant to be all about superstar dirt performer Curlin but Frankie Dettori stole the show with an utterly sublime ride on Raven’s Pass.
Raven’s Pass, racing beyond a mile for the first time in his career, was switched off in the early stages but Dettori knew exactly which horse to track through around the home turn and, having conserved every ounce of energy he could for the finishing effort, Raven’s Pass quickened past Curling in the home straight to become the first British-trained winner of the Classic.
It was a plan that was executed to perfection by the ultimate big-race rider.
There were doubts about Stradivarius staying the Gold Cup trip going into the 2018 edition but those doubts were quickly extinguished despite the improving stayer racing quite keenly off the steady early fractions.
Dettori must have had doubts about whether there was enough in the locker for the business end of the race but Stradivarius silenced the doubters by knuckling down to hold off Vazirabad in a pulsating renewal of Ascot’s blue riband summer contest.
Dettori and Stradivarius formed a formidable alliance, one that went on to plunder three Gold Cups and almost £3m in prize money.
Frankie Dettori enjoyed some amazing days with the Enable but my personal favourite, despite having backed the runner-up on the day.
Dettori clearly had a plan on the day and was happy to chart a wide course even though he knew that he would be forfeiting ground around the Churchill Downs turns. Out of any trouble on the inside, Dettori eased his mount into prime position around the home turn before getting every ounce out of the mare in the dual with Magical, who ran a scorcher in defeat.
The front two pulled nine lengths clear of their nearest rival that day, highlighting the gulf in class between the pick of the European middle-distance horses and their US counterparts.
And for Dettori, it was yet another perfectly executed ride on the on the biggest of international stages.