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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent


Legendary jockey bows out of UK with circus-like crescendo

Frankie Dettori was like Mick Jagger.


A well-worn phrase is “you couldn’t have scripted it”. But, honestly, anyone could have written the denouement to Frankie Dettori’s career as a jockey in the UK – that’s how remarkable his career has been. He was always a rider for the big moment; spectacular achievements became commonplace and expected.

His mother was a circus performer, standing on bareback horses as they twirled around a ring. And his final moment on the British turf had all the theatrical flourish of the Big Top – with a drum roll and a crash of cymbals.

With Frankie aboard, a dark grey horse called King Of Steel got up on the line to win the Champion Stakes, the headline event on the UK’s season climax, British Champions Day at Ascot Racecourse. Ten months earlier, 52-year-old Dettori had earmarked this race as his swansong to the game after 36 years in the saddle.

Imagine if he won it, people said then. Wouldn’t put it past him, was the chorus. There was an inevitability to it.

Magnificent Seven

After all, Ascot was where Frankie notched up his Magnificent Seven – winning all seven races on the card of a day at Royal Ascot a few decades back. And it was where landed a good proportion of his nearly 300 Group 1 triumphs.

Yet, sometimes inevitability can seem artificial. “Is this real?” said a dazed-looking Dettori in the winner’s circle.

He rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. “Honestly, my emotions are all over the place. I can’t believe it. The crowd got this horse over the line. I was doing my best on top but the scream that I got was incredible.”

‘Perfect end’

Oli Bell, an ITV Racing presenter who has seen many a big moment on a racecourse, said: “I knew with Frankie and the narrative around his farewell that it was going to be special, but what happened on the track just elevated it to a day that was above everyone’s wildest dreams.

“For him to win on King Of Steel, in the manner he did, was the perfect end to his time in Britain as a jockey. It will probably go down as one of, if not, my greatest days on a racecourse – I absolutely loved it.

“It was … a fitting way to say goodbye, maybe for now, maybe for good, to, in my opinion, the greatest jockey of all time.”

Bell was supposed to interview Dettori but was lost for words in the moment.

“Everyone’s cameras were out and he was like Mick Jagger – it was genuinely bonkers. The noise was mad, especially when he came back into the paddock and gave those flying dismounts.

“I’ve heard lots of Frankie cheers in the past, but none quite like that. He was playing up to it and the crowd were loving it,” said Bell.

A Dettori victory in the opener, the Long Distance Cup, on Trawlerman added gilt to the whole piece.

As revealed earlier, the Italian-born jockey has done a U-turn on his retirement plans – taking out a licence to ride in California for a while yet and not ruling out forays to big race meetings elsewhere in the world. Another visit to the Met; perhaps the July?

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