Frankie Dettori


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On 15 December 1970 Lanfranco Dettori was born in Milan, Italy, practically with a riding crop in his hand. Gianfranco, his father, was a champion jockey in Italy and his mother was a professional circus performer, whose specialty was to perform back flips while riding astride two horses.

At the age of eight, Frankie was given his first mount: a palomino pony. Every night, Frankie used to hone his riding skills on the pony for at least half an hour. So committed was Frankie to riding that school was of little use, and he left at 13 to become a stable boy and apprentice jockey. The following year, Frankie left his native Italy for Britain, to work for Italian trainer Luca Cumani, in Newmarket.

The gamble paid dividends. Within two years, Frankie had ridden winners in Italy and in England, and further successes followed. In 1989, Frankie Dettori was made Luca Cumani's stable jockey after becoming Champion Apprentice.

The wins started to pour in and in 1990 Frankie, still a teenager, managed to record one hundred victories. Not since Lester Piggot had a jockey won so many races in their teens.

The next year he won his first derby in Germany, and the young Italian was quickly establishing himself in the jockey hierarchy.

Dettori was also cultivating what was to become one of his greatest strengths. He aimed to ride with his hands as low as possible, which had the effect of relaxing the horse. This was augmented by his innate ability to get the best out of his horses, especially in the latter stages of a race.

This 'Frankie Factor', coupled with a shrewd mind for racing, was put to devastating effect time and again. Indeed, Dettori used his ability over the years to win every single major race, with the exception of the Epsom Derby.

On 28 September 1998, at Ascot, he won each of the seven races he entered. It is very unlikely that such a feat will ever be equalled, let alone bettered.

His story could so easily have ended in tragedy. In 2001, Frankie was aboard a plane which crashed, killing the pilot. Miraculously, he escaped relatively unscathed. He suffered a fractured right ankle and an injured thumb.

An ardent Anglophile, he thrives on English culture: Frankie is an avid Arsenal supporter, has a line of frozen Italian food and was even awarded an honorary MBE in 2000.

In 2003, he quit as one of the team captains on the BBC panel show 'A Question of Sport' when a participant asked him when he had retired from riding. Since then he has dedicated himself to the sport.

He became the British Champion Jockey in 2004 and celebrated with one of his well-known 'flying dismounts'. The same year, he opened a restaurant with Marco Pierre White in Putney, London called Frankie's Bar and Grill.

Dettori finally won the Epsom Derby on his 15th attempt on 2 June 2007 on the horse Authorized. The following day, he achieved a Derby Double when he won the Prix Du Jockey club.

In the same year, he became the face of 'Jockey' yoghurt, which is sold across Europe and is especially popular in France.

Since then, Dettori has continued racing, winning the British 1,000 guineas in 2011. He was also made an honorary doctor of science for his services to racing by Anglia Ruskin University.

He said: "I'm really proud to receive an honorary doctorate and I can't wait to show the pictures to my children," quoted BBC News.

Dettori lives in Stetchworth, Suffolk, with his wife Catherine and their five children.

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