Experience, nerve, skill and utter brilliance: Dettori's greatest year far from over yet

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Sat 14 Sep 2019
 Dettori has been in fabulous form all year (Focusonracing)
Dettori has been in fabulous form all year (Focusonracing)

Frankie Dettori has never had a season like this one in 30-plus years as a jockey. And even if he rides for another decade, nothing is likely to ever come close again to the success he has enjoyed in 2019.

Dettori will partner the unbeaten Logician, the favourite, against seven rivals in the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday seeking a fifteenth Group One win in little more than three months.

And 24 hours later he will have more chances to add to his winners at the highest level at either the Curragh or ParisLongchamp.

A purple patch has developed into a purple reign where, time after time, he has weaved his magic in some of Europe’s biggest races.

At the age of 48, when most jockeys have retired or are considering the next phase of their life, he seems as good, if not better, than ever.

By his own admission, he is fortunate to ride for John Gosden and partner a squad of horses seemingly blessed for every distance and occasion. But each have benefited from his experience, nerve and skill – plus utter brilliance in the cases of Anapurna and Star Catcher.

Dettori has dominated in the top races of 2019

Gosden said after the victory of the latter in the Irish Oaks: "We've been lucky to have him. He'd be the first to tell you that he went through some difficult times, mostly self-inflicted, but one specifically not.

"He's a wonderful person to be around. He's like family with us. He's a gorgeous rider and knows his horses. When he's with you working them in the morning he nearly wants to train them, so I have to calm him down.

"You leave him alone when he has a plan and he can go to Plan B usually quite quickly. He has the courage to do that, which comes from years of experience and having a clock in your head.”

Nine of Dettori’s 14 wins at the highest level this term have been achieved in Britain - his best haul on home soil - and there is still the St Leger, Sun Chariot Stakes, Dewhurst, Middle Park, Cheveley Park, Fillies’ Mile, British Champions Sprint, British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Champion Stakes and Vertem Futurity Trophy to come.

That’s 11 more domestic opportunities to increase his haul and boost his bank balance. There will also be other opportunities in Ireland, and abroad there is as the Arc meeting and Breeders’ Cup to anticipate, each stacked with more Group/Grade One contests.

 Dettori and Enable will seek a historic third Arc together (Focusonracing)
Dettori and Enable will seek a historic third Arc together (Focusonracing)

Flat jockeys typically get about seven per cent of the prize-money so this year has also been a lucrative one for the father of five, with his Group One winners alone earning him about £325,000.

Dettori can be expected to be in the thick of the action and, barring injury, it will be a shock if he does not surpass his best tally of 16 wins at the highest level that he managed in 2001, when such as Fantastic Light, Kutub, Sakhee and Lailani were among his best four-legged friends.

That year, half his top successes came from the autumn onwards as he struck in England, Ireland, France, Germany and America from mid-September onwards.

This term, eight horses have combined to provide Dettori with his hefty haul, six of them trained by Gosden. Enable’s triumphs in the Coral-Eclipse, King George and Yorkshire Oaks have been the highlight and, like her jockey, she’s not finished yet.


1. May 31: Investec Oaks at Epsom

Winner: Anapurna (8-1)

The daughter of Frankel got worked up beforehand and looked in trouble when push came to shove three out but Dettori weaved through near the rail and, saving every inch, got her home by a neck from Pink Dogwood after trading at 19-1 in-running on Betfair.

2. June 19: Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot

Winner: Crystal Ocean (3-1)

Hunting Horn was in the race as a pacemaker for Magical, the favourite, but it was Dettori who made maximum use of him, tracking him through and then kicking on early in the straight to make maximum use of his mount’s proven stamina. The winning distance over Magical was a length and a quarter.

3. June 20: Gold Cup at Royal Ascot

Winner: Stradivarius (Evens fav)

Dettori was on the best horse but the premier staying race was run at a muddling gallop and early in the straight he had nowhere to manoeuvre. He sat tight, waited for a gap to appear and then calmly eased ahead. Stradvarius idled a bit but still won by a length.

4. June 21: Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot

Winner: Advertise (8-1)

Most eyes were on hot favourite Ten Sovereigns and the previous week Advertise had languished at 16-1. Dettori sat off the pace before hitting the front just inside the final furlong and his mount ran on strongly to win by a length and a half.

5. June 30: Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud at Saint-Cloud

Winner: Coronet (22-10)

Having previously been placed in seven Group One race without winning one, it seemed six-year-old Coronet was destined to never to win at the highest level but Dettori smuggled her home by a short neck after having to wait for a gap with her stablemate, Lah Ti Dar, who he rejected, a short-head further away in third.

6. July 6: Coral-Eclipse at Sandown

Winner: Enable (4-6 fav)

The mighty mare was having her first run since November after being a little slow to come to hand but Dettori oozed confidence– tracking the pacemaking Hunting Horn and then easing ahead before readily holding off Magical by three quarters of a length without being too hard on her.

7. July 7: Prix Jean Prat at Deauville

Winner: Too Darn Hot (4-5 fav)

After being placed on Too Darn Hot in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes, this looked a good opportunity for the colt and Dettori soon had him tracking the pace and in a good rhythm. When invited to put his stamp on the race, Too Darn Hot quickened away to win by three lengths.

8. July 20: Irish Oaks at the Curragh

Winner: Star Catcher (7-2)

A Dettori masterclass from the front. The other seven riders in the race were all left playing his tune; the Italian dictating at perfect fractions before crucially turning up the turbo with two to run. Donnacha O’Brien and Fleeting were the only combination to get near but were repelled by half a length.

9. July 27: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot

Winner: Enable (8-15 fav)

Drawn wide, Dettori had to revert to Plan B when he initially could not get in and then Plan C when getting shuffled back. He bided his time before producing Enable to lead two out – and then came an epic ding-dong duel with Crystal Ocean Enable edged home by a neck, Dettori going for his stick only once to keep balanced and in harmony with her throughout.

10. July 30: Goodwood Cup at Goodwood

Winner: Stradivarius (4-5 fav)

The eight runners got well strung out as the useful Wells Farhh Go raced in a clear lead. John Gosden admitted to getting twitchy in the stands but Dettori played a prolonged waiting game before cruising to the front. He celebrated a little prematurely and that allowed Dee Ex Bee to get within a neck of him. Later in the season, Stradivarius won a second Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million, Dettori’s share of the bonus being £75,000.

11. July 31 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood

Winner: Too Darn Hot (Evens fav)

Twenty-four hours after Stradivarius had breezed home, Too Darn Hot did much the same. Dettori soon had him in an ideal position just off the pace and Too Darn Hot zipped to the front when asked to put the race to bed a furlong out. He won without being anything like fully extended but, sadly, was found to have suffered a career-ending injury a few days later.

12. August 4: Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville

Winner: Advertise (22-10 fav)

Always close-up and travelling well, Dettori hit the front just over a furlong out and from then on was always holding on – despite Brando getting to within a neck of him at the line.

13. August 18: Darley Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville

Winner: Coronet (17-10 fav)

Dropped back to 10 furlongs, Dettori was keen to adopt a prominent position and hit the front two out. Not for the first time, Coronet did not look a completely easy conveyance but Dettori kept her going forwards to win by three quarters of a length.

14. August 22: Yorkshire Oaks at York

Faced by only three rivals, Dettori kept things simple by making the running and gradually turning the screw. Magical again could not keep up when it mattered most and Enable won by two and three quarter lengths.

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