Frankie Dettori: The great showman of horse racing that bookmakers fear

Frankie Dettori

Every time Frankie Dettori makes one of his trademark flying dismounts, the bookies shudder.

Their fear is justified because Italian jockey Dettori’s accolades in the saddle mark him down as one of the all-time greats. In the same way that dominant jumps rider AP McCoy transcended the National Hunt game, he is known to and beloved by a wider public than just betting enthusiasts.

You don’t have to be a close follower of Flat horse racing to have heard of Lanfranco Dettori. He has won every British Classic at least twice and his list of regular mounts contains a plethora of modern era equine legends.

During a riding career spanning almost 35 years, Dettori has pretty much done it all. His passion for the sport of kings remains undiminished and, despite some bumps in the road, he still comes alive at major meetings. He is one of the faces of the horse racing business, and will remain so for a while yet.

Gold Cup day at Royal Ascot 2019 saw the 48-year-old Dettori rattle up a four-timer as he won consecutive races on the card. His best chance of a winner throughout the entire five-day festival that is British horse racing’s premier summer event was Stradivarius.

Unseasonably wet weather and a soft surface weren’t sure to suit the John Gosden trained five-year-old who had won the Gold Cup the previous year on very different going. Stradivarius’ pilot had other ideas as he partnered A’Ali, Sangarius and Star Catcher in the three previous races.

Dettori on song in this unbeatable form evoked memories of 28 September 1996, when he went through the entire card at Ascot riding his magnificent seven winners. Bookmakers remembered that all too well, and began slashing the odds for his rides as racing progressed.

Stradivarius, despite being the defending champ, was a weak Gold Cup favourite on the morning of the race. Yet Dettori’s sensational exploits throughout the day saw him sent off odds-on to retain his crown. His status as champion stayer is in no small part down to the man in the saddle.

Frankie Dettori
Frankie Dettori statue” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Phil Guest

Long distance races can be tactical affairs where in order to preserve their stamina, horses remain covered up until late on. Stradivarius loves Ascot and is four from five there, but Dettori has twice had to sneak through gaps that a taller horse probably wouldn’t get through in order to win.

The big question on every punter’s lips is does it still pay to follow Dettori? Using the 888Sport bet calculator, off a level £1 stake on all of his UK rides in 2019 going into Eclipse day at Sandown you would be £19.35 up.

That is clear evidence it does but, perhaps thankfully for bookmakers, Dettori is more selective about his rides in recent years. His continued longevity may be down to this emphasis on quality over quantity, but he still goes on international missions to France and the Breeders’ Cup in America.

Dettori has been a great ambassador for horse racing and even recognised it in the midst of his four-timer at Royal Ascot 2019. Even if you’re only a casual observer, his is one name that is sure of its place in the annals of sporting history.