Frankie Dettori enjoys double on his final ride in Britain - GulfToday

Frankie Dettori enjoys double on his final ride in Britain


Frankie Dettori reacts after riding Godolphin's Trawlerman to victory in the British Champions Long Distance Stakes at Ascot Racecourse on Saturday. AFP

Frankie Dettori brought the curtain down on his dazzling three-decade career in Europe on Saturday in fairytale fashion with two big race winners on British Champions Day.

The flamboyant Italian showman began his final day riding in Europe with one of his trademark flying dismounts after upsetting hot favourite Kyprios on Trawlerman in the Long Distance Cup.

Fittingly the winner was trained by one of his staunchest allies over the years, John Gosden, and owned by Godolphin with whom he enjoyed a heady 20-year association.

The 52-year-old father of five's win raised the rafters of the racecourse which has such a special place in his heart. It was at the Berkshire track where he rode the first of his near 300 Group One winners on Markofdistinction in 1990.

And it was at Ascot where he famously swept through the card of this very meeting on September 28, 1996, his 'Magnificent Seven' leaving bookmakers tens of millions of pounds out of pocket.

With the crowds' cheers ringing in his ears he smiled: "That was nuts. Once he (Trawlerman) got back the crowd went crazy. "It was just mental, I'm speechless."

Gosden, who trains nowadays with his son Thady, paid a fulsome tribute to the man from Milan who had pitched up at Newmarket as a raw 14-year-old stable lad, the 1.63m tall rider going on to become one of the true giants of the sport. "When he's at his peak there's no greater and he lets the crowd carry him," commented Gosden.

"He operates on that enormous energy. He's a fabulous talent but Alex Ferguson would've found him hard to manage at times. He is, without doubt, the most phenomenal jockey I've ever put on a horse and pound-for-pound the greatest."

Before racing began the three-time British champion jockey had an important task to perform — to witness the unveiling of a statue of himself in the presence of Britain's Queen Camilla.

The bookies must have then let out a collective sigh of relief as any thoughts of a repeat of his 1996 'through-the-card' heroics were dashed in the second race when he was narrowly edged out on favourite Kinross by outsider Art Power on the line of the six furlong (1200m) sprint.

Dettori has enjoyed a superb farewell tour this season since announcing his plans to retire, showing himself at the peak of his powers, collecting major wins including in the English 2,000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks and the Ascot Gold Cup.

His Guineas winner Chaldean lined up with the man of the moment on board in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but the pair were blown away by a mesmerising front running display by Big Rock, who romped home in the rain-sodden ground at 5-1 from Facteur Cheval for a memorable French-trained 1-2.

Paddington, the Aidan O'Brien trained favourite like Chaldean, and the rest of the field never got a look in.

Dettori has won every English classic at least twice, including the Epsom Derby, and he next teamed up with this season's Derby runner-up King of Steel in the Group One Champions Stakes.

The pair were plum last entering the straight but Dettori called on all his experience and magical horsemanship to pick off the horses in front of him one by one and get up in the shadow of the post to beat Via Sistina by three quarters of a length.

"Ooooh, Frankie Dettori" sang the crowd as Dettori, beaming from ear to ear, returned to a joyous winner's enclosure for apparently his final ever flying dismount on the European continent after 37 years.

"It's absolutely insane, what a day. I'm having my last ride winning the Champion Stakes at Ascot, I have to pinch myself," said the breathless Italian.

"I'm thrilled for Frankie and the team at home," said trainer Roger Varian.

They say it's always best to leave your fans wanting more and Dettori is certainly adopting that maxim, hanging up his riding silks in Britain after a sensational final season.

Whilst being adamant throughout the year that this really was it, he has enjoyed himself so much over the past eight months that he plans to extend his retirement for awhile with a stint riding into the Californian sunshine.

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