Frankie Dettori: Racing’s great showman takes one last shot at Royal Ascot glory
21st June 2023

Frankie Dettori will retire at the end of the year

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Royal Ascot is a stage unlike any other in horseracing. It’s a course that mixes royalty with fashion, sport, and theatre.

Yet, despite how the races unfurl this week, nothing will reach the heights of drama quite like the final performance of legendary jockey Frankie Dettori, who races here for the last time in his career.

At the back end of last year Dettori called time on a 35-year career stating that 2023 would be his final one racing before retirement.

Ever the showman, he gave the public a year-long swansong to soak up his skills and charisma before his time in the saddle is over.

In the five days of the Royal Ascot meeting 270,000 spectators will flock to the Berkshire course and see the master in action on one of the biggest stages for the final time. He’s riding King Charles III’s Reach For The Moon in the Royal Hunt Cup on Wednesday and is looking forward to the prospect of another triumph at Ascot, saying: “A royal winner would raise the roof. It would be fantastic and I’m obviously really looking forward to the meeting.”


Frankie Dettori riding Saga before the 17:35 Wolferton Stakes

Not that the roof needs raising. Ascot and Dettori will forever be associated with each other.

This is the venue of the 52-year-old’s greatest achievement. It’s the place where he rode his “magnificent seven” winners in one day at odds of 25,095-1. A feat that cost the betting industry an estimated £40m and earned Dettori a statue at Ascot to mark the achievement.

He is a jockey like no other, propelled to stardom off the back of those seven winners, he remained in the limelight due his personality, charisma, and knack for winning big races. Ask anyone on the street to name a horseracing jockey and the response you’ll get more than most is: ‘Frankie Dettori.

Outside racing circles, Dettori is the name and face of horse racing. His persona transcended the sport and reached a wider audience. The type of people who tune in each year for Cheltenham or the Grand National but show no interest outside the bigger events all know who Frankie Dettori is.

A racegoer takes a phone call near the Frankie Dettori statue at Ascot Racecourse

They’ll have a vague picture or memory of the little jockey leaping off his horse, arms stretched wide with a cheeky grin on his face, celebrating yet another triumph.

His flying dismount is an iconic image, created by a horseracing superstar.

Dettori has been racing in Britain since the 1980s. He started as an apprentice jockey earning a first win in at Goodwood on 9th June 1987. At 19, Dettori became the first teenager since Lester Piggott to win more than 100 races in a season and finished fourth in the Champion Jockey table.

He partnered with Sheikh Mohammed’s newly-founded Godolphin Racing in 1994, earning the first of his Champion Jockey titles that same year and followed up with two more wins in 1995 and 2004.

He spent 18 years and earned many successes allied with Godolphin – including the previously mentioned seven winners in a day at Ascot in 1996 – but they parted ways in 2012 just months before Dettori was suspended for failing a drug test.

He admitted to using cocaine stating: “Things were going bad, I was depressed and I guess a moment of weakness and I fell for it and I’ve only got myself to blame”.

King Charles III, Queen Camilla and John Warren speak with Frankie Dettori

Over such a long career there are bound to be failures and mistakes like this but greatness is measured by how a person responds.

Dettori served his time away from the sport – six months in total – and came back in style, riding Asian Trader to victory at Sandown just one week into his return.

The latter end of his career saw him pair up with trainer John Gosden and brought him more success. Atop Stadivarius, Dettori won three consecutive Ascot Gold Cups between 2018-2020, though jockey and horse were beaten by a length into third place in the 2022 Gold Cup race.

Three Champion Jockey triumphs and 286 Group 1 winners, including 23 winners in the British Classics, brings Dettori up to date and facing his final rides at Royal Ascot this week. The Italian will have to overcome a frustrating opening day after being given a nine-day careless riding ban by the stewards.

There is still time for Dettori to land a 78th winner at this meeting but perhaps a different prize will take precedent.

He’ll drink in the adulation and the applause. He’ll make sure to remember the feel of the turf as the horses thunder across it, he’ll note the noise of the crowds as they cheer and the tingly sensation that shoots through the body as the thrill of racing to finish line kicks in.

His last races here will truly make this week a special one for the Italian.


Whether he wins or not, the watching crowds at Royal Ascot will celebrate a man who has brought smiles, tears, and joy to this most thrilling of sports.

They’ll back him, as they have many times before, and maybe, just maybe, their reward will be that Frankie Dettori’s final performance at Royal Ascot is his greatest one yet.

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