As we head into fall, the racing world is watching the conclusion of the career of one of its most famous sons in real time. Frankie Dettori, the affable Italian jockey who has spent the best part of four decades winning everything horse racing has to offer, has promised to end his career at the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Festival in November. It means there remain mere weeks of the jockey’s career, and things have turned into a bit of a long, protracted farewell party.
Last week, Dettori popped up in Ireland. He was there to chase down another record, looking for this 7th Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. As he was in the country over the weekend, some of the racecourses were trying desperately to get him to appear one last time. As it turned out, Dettori chose to run at Down Royal, delighting many fans who had never seen him before at the Northern Irish venue.
Talk of u-turn dominates racing pages
As so often the case when a generational sports talent decides to retire – think Tom Brady or Serena Williams – there is a clamor for a u-turn. The racing papers abound with rumors that Dettori’s head may be turned by lucrative offers from the UAE and beyond. But he seems resolute in his decision to end his riding career in November, although it is almost certain he will be involved in racing in some capacity. It will be a sad loss for the industry. Not just for his undoubted talent, but due to his personality. Dettori is more than a jockey; he is a figurehead for the sport of racing.
The Italian’s legacy is, of course, phenomenal. There are very few of the great prizes in world racing that have eluded him. And the majority of the top prizes that he has won, he has won multiple times. Fans of a certain age will certainly remember the greatest achievement of all – the Magnificent Seven – seven winners from seven races at Ascot in 1996. Wall Street, Diffident, Mark Of Esteem, Decorated Hero, Fatefully, Lochangel, and Fujiyama Crest are horses that have their names etched in the history books. Celebrated by various documentary films and the Frankie Dettori slot games like Frankie Dettori Sporting Legend, the feat might never be repeated in horse racing again.
A remarkable jockey for modern racing
Great athletes, and yes we are counting jockeys as athletes, do extraordinary things. Racing is sometimes looked at a little differently, as there is only so much an average jockey can do with a poor horse. Yet, Dettori always showed what was possible, as some of his greatest achievements were recorded on the back of horses of all types of quality. Sure, as he became better recognized, he’d get the pick from his training partners, but Dettori has won on hot favorites and outsiders, and every type of horse in between. A good jockey can win on a bad horse; Dettori is a great jockey. Everyone will have their opinion on the greatest jockeys in history, and the Italian is in the conversation. As mentioned, there are rumblings that Dettori could make a u-turn. The Italian is something of a showman, and he knows how to play the media. So he has recently been teasing a possible reversal of the retirement, hinting that a mega offer of money might be enough to do it. But all signs point to the final few weeks of Dettori’s remarkable career. Racing will lose one of the great entertainers in the saddle, and his legacy will remain forever.