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Dettori embracing spectator view on his Royal Ascot return

Dettori embracing spectator view on his Royal Ascot return
Dettori embracing spectator view on his Royal Ascot return

Some would say it is not Royal Ascot without Frankie Dettori and the mercurial Italian could not resist a visit to his favourite sporting home despite keeping the promise he made to the racing public when riding into the sunset in October.

Dettori is one of Ascot’s favourite sons and the man who made history with his ‘Magnificent Seven’ in 1996, but he waved farewell to the country he had called home after a Hollywood ending aboard King Of Steel on British Champions Day.

It is somewhat fitting that the man whose career read like a blockbuster movie made in California now has the American west coast as his home, postponing initial retirement plans to enjoy his twilight years in the heat and dirt of Stateside racing.

However, the perfect timing of his daughter Ella’s marriage seamlessly dovetailed with the Royal meeting, allowing the 53-year-old to make the pilgrimage to the place he has enjoyed so many historic days in the saddle.

Dettori said: “It’s been a whirlwind week, and with flying in for the wedding, I managed to persuade my manager to give me two weeks off, but he wants me straight back because there are so many big races in America at the moment.

“It’s so different in America and has been a nice challenge and so far it is going well. It’s been good to me and I’m enjoying it and touch wood it is going well. I hope I continue enjoying it and it is going better than expected.

“It’s nice to be back and it’s a different feel, usually I’m stressed, but now I’m relaxed and among good old friends, my old valets and the jockeys. I’m able to relax.

“It’s been great to reminisce over the great days I’ve had here over the last 37 years.”

Dettori admits he was not short of offers to grace the Ascot turf on horseback once again, but keen to honour the pact he had made when making his swansong journey to the US, he agreed to leave his kitbag at home ahead of this whistlestop tour of the UK.

He continued: “It’s different being here and not riding and I don’t have the stress that I would usually have. A little bit of my heart wishes I was riding, but I promised the British public I would retire last October.

“I’ve had lots of offers of course and the temptation was there and in my heart I would love to be out there. But I’ve stuck to my word and I’m here as a spectator.

“I had an amazing day last year in October on my final day winning the Champion Stakes and I don’t know if I can top that.

“It’s nice to be here and see some old friends and really enjoy it without all the stress. There’s some great racing this week and I know some of the old horses, but some of the young ones I don’t know so much. It’s a chance for me to enjoy my sport.”

Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the final ride of his career in Britain at Ascot
Dettori celebrated with victory on his final ride in Britain at Ascot last October (John Walton/PA)

Ryan Moore is rapidly baring down on Dettori’s 81 Royal Ascot winners, but for now he clings on to the mantle of the summer showpiece’s leading rider.

That journey began back in 1990 aboard Luca Cumani’s Markofdistinction in the Queen Anne and culminated in a four-timer during his final Royal Ascot 12 months ago when he registered his ninth Gold Cup aboard Wathnan Racing’s Courage Mon Ami for long-time training allies John and Thady Gosden.

That victory in the week’s feature race was the highlight of his farewell at Ascot’s highest-profile event and when asked about his standout moments from his many years riding at the meeting, he added: “I would say Markofdistinction my first winner, I was just a kid and it meant so much and I had my parents here.

“I won nine Gold Cups and they are all special and my first one was presented by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and last year was the first time the trophy was presented by the King – it was different, but also amazing.”

While set to cast a keen eye on the action on track over the next five days, Dettori is also closely following Euro 2024 in Germany.

King Charles congratulates Frankie Dettori on his 2023 Gold Cup success at Royal Ascot
Dettori won the last of his nine Gold Cups in last year’s renewal (David Davies/PA)

Although his beloved Arsenal may have suffered last-day disappointment in the Premier League, he has high hopes for his native Italy retaining their trophy having begun the month-long football festival with a 2-1 victory over Albania.

“My money is on Italy of course,” said Dettori.

“I thought England made a great start, but then wobbled a bit in the second half, whereas Italy was the other way round, they finished very strong.

“Thursday will be great as both England and Italy are playing and it will be a good day to watch sport.”

Always the showman, Dettori signed off by teasing that one of his famous flying dismounts may not be a thing of the past to his adoring Ascot crowd.

Although on the sidelines this year, he refused to rule out a spectacular return in the future, and when asked about returning his saddle to the Royal Ascot weighing room said: “Not at the moment, but never say never.”

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