The 2023 Royal Ascot Festival (June 20th – June 24th) will feel somewhat different this year. Queen Elizabeth II was a regular attendee for almost 70 years. Her death in September marked the end of an era for British horse racing, as the Royal Family’s patronage was always seen as synonymous with venues like Ascot. Of course, Royal Ascot it remains, and there will likely be representatives from the monarchy at the Festival, including a possible appearance from King Charles III.
And yet, if we are talking about Ascot royalty, few are held in higher esteem than Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori, the legendary Italian jockey who has been lighting up venues across the horse racing world across four different decades. Dettori, 52, has stated this will be his final year in horse racing, with plans to retire after the 2023 Breeders’ Cup in the fall. As such, the British summer horse racing season has become something of a farewell tour, with fans hoping the iconic jockey can deliver the magic one last time.
The Magnificent Seven will never be repeated
Ascot has a unique relationship with Dettori. It is the scene of his greatest triumph – and one of the greatest achievements in sports history – the Magnificent Seven at Ascot. In 1996, Dettori went “through the card”, winning all seven races on British Champions Day at Ascot. The horse racing betting accumulator odds came in at around 25,000/1, showing just how improbable the feat was. And yes, if you were wondering, some astute bettors decided to back the Italian to do just that on the day. While we have seen some days in horse racing where a trainer or jockey wins every possible race, there has never been anything achieved at this elite level before, and it is not likely to be repeated.
Of course, with over 500 wins in Group Races, Dettori has sprinkled plenty of stardust at the Royal Ascot Festival. A list of his accolades includes eight Ascot Gold Cups, seven Queen Anne Stakes, four Prince of Wales’ Stakes, three St James’ Palace Stakes, two Diamond Jubilee Stakes, two Coronation Cups, and many, many more. While he might be on the path to retirement this year, Dettori will have plenty left to say. He will likely ride Chaldean in the St James’ Palace Stakes 2023, who is the hot-favorite after winning the 2,000 Guineas (Dettori’s fourth) in May.
Dettori has plenty of big races to end with a flourish Indeed, we should point out that Dettori still has a lot of action ahead of him – and there are rumors that he will change his mind about retirement – but there will be a sense of the ending of an era at Royal Ascot this month. It is undoubtedly the highlight of the British summer racing season, particularly given the focus on the pomp and circumstance at a venue that has been hosting racing for close to 300 years, with some remarkable moments. But in the annals of Ascot’s long, long history, there are few riders that have added to the patchwork quite like the magical Italian. It won’t be his final race at Ascot Racecourse, as there are fixtures in the late summer and fall. But there will be a royal farewell for one of the princes of world horse racing at the iconic venue this June.