Whether you’re a horse racing fan or not, you’d have had to have been living in North Korea since the mid 80’s to have not heard the name Frankie Dettori.
The charismatic superstar jockey has built as much of a following through his numerous television appearances as he has through his record breaking horsemanship and continued to remind the world just how good he is with a mesmerising ride on Star of Seville last weekend. It capped a memorable eight days for Frankie who was celebrating his second Classic win of the season after picking up the Epsom Derby on Golden Horn.
In 1996 he set the equine racing world alight by riding the winner in all seven races on British Champions Day at Ascot, costing the bookies an estimated £20 million and treating the crowd to seven flying dismounts for which he has become famous. He has ridden no less than 500 Group race winners in his career and has even gone on to make his mark in the upper echelons of breeding, bringing together Dubawi and Nova Cyngi to produce multiple Group 1 winner, Dodging Bullets.
His gift for horses should come as no surprise following Lanfranco (as he’s known on his birth certificate) owning his first horse at age 12. His father, Gianfranco, a hugely successful jockey across Italy in his own right, picked up the 2,000 Guineas in 1975 and 1976 amongst a spate of other high-class British races.
Frankie came to Britain as an apprentice for Luca Cumani at the age of 16 and was soon retained as the stable jockey, although he clocked up 17 winners during this first season back home on Italian soil. Yet to pass his 30th birthday, Dettori placed himself amongst flat racing’s elite when the teenager reached a century of race wins in a single season.
By the age of 21 he had already won the Sussex, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne Stakes as well as the Fillies Mile and has gone on to become a three-time Champion Jockey.
In spite of these incredible achievements and sporting memories, it all could have ended so differently as Frankie escaped from a helicopter crash with his life, although the pilot wasn’t so fortunate. In a number of interviews he has expressed his deep sadness over the incident, convinced that the pilot sacrificed his own life to save those on board.
Never far from the limelight, he tested positive for cocaine following a bout of depression in 2012. Highly publicised in the media, he was slapped with a six month ban which he dealt with in the only way he knew how – by getting back on the TV and on to Big Brother!
His unwavering charm and energy have kept him firmly at the hearts of British people for a generation and, in spite of his misdemeanour, he remains as popular as ever. Off the back of his recent double Classic, there can’t be a man in better form going into Ascot this week.