Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori rode his first winner in Britain on Lizzy Hare at Goodwood in June, 1987 and, following his victory on Predilection at Newmarket in August, 2016, became just the sixth jockey in Flat racing to ride 3,000 British winners. The other jockeys to do so were, by number of wins, Sir Gordon Richards, Pat Eddery, Lester Piggott, Willie Carson and Doug Smith who, collectively, won the jockeys’ title 56 times between them.
By contrast, the Italian has been Champion Jockey just three times. Dettori enjoyed his most successful season, numerically, in 1994, with 233 winners. That was, of course, the year in which he accepted a retainer to ride for the Godolphin operation, under the auspices of Sheikh Mohammed. Indeed, Dettori rode his first of his 110 Group 1, or Grade 1, winners in the familiar royal blue silks on Balanchine in the Oaks at Epsom in June, 1994, and his second on the same horse in the Irish Derby three weeks later. Other high-profile successes that year included Lochsong, trained by Ian Balding, in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp and Barathea, trained by fellow Italian Luca Cumani, in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs.
In 1995, Dettori reached the milestone of two hundred British winners in a season for the second, and final, time. In fact, that year, he racked up 217 winners on British soil, including Moonshell in the Oaks at Epsom, Lammtarra in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot, So Factual in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York and Classic Cliché in the St. Leger at Doncaster, all for Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
Ultimately, Dettori would be retained as first jockey to Godolphin for 18 years, until the relationship ended in 2012, and the association would make him the highest-paid jockey in the world. However, following his second jockeys’ title, in 1995, that same affiliation led Dettori to focus on quality rather than quantity and, for several years, he set aside the rigours of travelling around the country to pick up rides.
However, in 2004, his renewed appetite for ‘hitting the road’ coincided with an increase in the firepower at the disposal of Team Godolphin and, after a protracted battle with Kieren Fallon – who’d be Champion Jockey in six of the previous seven seasons – Dettori won the jockeys’ title again with 195 winners. Once again, Saeed bin Suroor was his principal benefactor, saddling Papineau to win the Gold Cup at Ascot, Refuse To Bend to win the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, Doyen to win the King George and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot and Sulamani to win the International Stakes at York.