The 2023 season sees the curtain come down on the remarkable career of Frankie Dettori. The evergreen Italian’s time in the spotlight isn’t over just yet – as evidenced by top-level triumphs in the 2,000 Guineas and Dubai Turf – but when he does finally hang up his silks, he will leave quite a legacy behind. Highlights of what has been a remarkable career include:
- 22 British Classic Wins
- 10 Irish Classic Wins
- 6 Wins in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
- Riding a winner in 24 different countries
Despite that impressive list of stats, one day stands tall above the rest, and it came on Saturday 28th September 1996 – a date which induces a warm glow amongst punters, and a cold shiver amongst the bookmaking fraternity to this day. That late-summer afternoon saw a 26-year-old Dettori achieve the seemingly impossible by riding all seven winners on the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Stakes card at Ascot. Here we take a look back at how the events unfolded and the resulting tales of triumph and woe.
Here’s how Dettori achieved his amazing run of wins, race by race.
Leg 1: Cumberland Lodge Stakes: Wall Street 2/1
Given the bookmaking crash to follow, Dettori’s first winner was rather aptly named. Having found only the mighty Singspiel too good on his previous outing, it was no surprise to see the Godolphin runner Wall Street sent off as the 2/1 favourite. Bounced straight out into the lead, Wall Street made all to score by half a length from Salmon Ladder.
Leg 2: Diadem Stakes: Diffident 12/1
You don’t ride seven winners without a little bit of luck, and Dettori’s good fortune came in race two. The unfancied Diffident struck for the line inside the final furlong, whilst favourite Lucayan Prince was trapped behind a wall of horses. Once in the clear, the jolly flew home but couldn’t quite get to Detttori, who hung on by a rapidly diminishing short head.
Leg 3: Queen Elizabeth II Stakes: Mark Of Esteem 10/3
The big race of the day looked like a cracker on paper, with the field containing 1,000 Guineas winner Bosra Sham and French 2,000 champ, Ashkalani. However, in the hands of Dettori, Newmarket 2,000 Guineas winner Mark Of Esteem mastered them all, showing a devasting burst of acceleration to score by one and a half lengths. Thus the hat-trick was landed.
Leg 4: Tote Festival Handicap: Decorated Hero 7/1
The small matter of a 26-runner field and a poor draw stood between Dettori and victory in race three. That negative of being drawn on the far side was cancelled out with the field going much too fast, leaving an ice-cool Dettori to swoop late for an easy three and a half length success.
Leg 5: Rosemary Rated Stakes: Fatefully 7/4
Back in the Godolphin Blue for race five. By this stage, the Ascot crowd were thoroughly swept up in the moment, roaring Dettori home as he made his move at the furlong pole and held on by a neck from his good friend Ray Cochrane aboard Abeyr.
Leg 6: Blue Seal Conditions Stakes: Lochangel 5/4
Dettori regularly labels Lochsong as one of the greatest sprinters he has ever ridden. However, it was that filly’s half-sister, Lochangel. who took Frankie to the cusp of greatness. Despite being beaten by four lengths on debut, the Ian Balding runner wasn’t about to ruin the script, as Dettori dictated the pace, before kicking at the two-furlong pole and seeing off the Pat Eddery-ridden Corsini for success by three quarters of a length.
Leg 7: Gordon Carter Handicap: Fujiyama Crest 2/1
Having started with a 2/1 shot, Frankie ended with another. However, that 2/1 price was down to the sheer weight of money from Dettori-related multiples up and down the country. Priced at 12/1 in the morning, Fujiyama Crest was winless in over a year and had been beaten by 43 lengths in his most recent outing. Nevertheless, he arrived as the defending champion and, with magic coursing through the reins, rediscovered his mojo to stay on best of all – making history and just about lifting the roof off the Ascot stands. Fujiyama Crest was later adopted as a Dettori family pet upon his retirement.
A Truly Remarkable Feat
To ride all seven winners on a seven-race card is as improbable a feat as it sounds. So improbable that no one other than Dettori has ever done it. Sir Gordon Richards went through a six-race card at Chepstow in 1933, with that feat repeated by Alec Russell at Bogside in 1957, whilst Willie Carson rode six out of seven winners on Northumberland Plate Day at Newcastle in 1990.
Punters in Paradise
Already a high-profile rider heading into the meeting, Dettori was a popular choice amongst smaller staking punters, many of whom regularly permed his mounts in multiples. Often derided as “mug bets”, this was the day it all paid off. At SP, the seven-race accumulator retuned odds of 25,051/1, whilst those with the foresight to take advantage of the early morning prices would have enjoyed a 235,834/1 payout.
Tales of impressive wins peppered the newspapers in the following days, with the most spectacular of all registered by Lancashire joiner, Darren Yates. Laying out £62 on a Super Heinz and each way accumulator, Yates pocketed a hefty £550,823.54. Not one to rest on his laurels, the now ex-joiner used the money to help start a property and development business, which he later sold for £20 million in 2019.
All told, Dettori’s Magnificent Seven is estimated to have cost the bookmaking industry north of £30m, and it is the unfortunate Gary Wilshere who became the poster boy for that pain. Sticking rigidly to his belief that Fujiyama Crest was way too short at 2/1, Wilshere relentlessly laid the horse in the face of the building momentum. A good bet on paper, a bad one in reality, as Wilshere succinctly put it himself,
“Everyone thinks that bookies win all the time, but they don’t. You have to sell your house [for £660,000], sell your cars and pay up as that is what you do.”
All’s well that ends well, and Wilshere gained a significant amount of media work on the back of the publicity, and when asked if he would do it all again, responded, “Of course I would! You never learn!”
The significance of the momentous event certainly hasn’t been lost on Dettori, who stated, “In all the things that I did in my career, if I have to pick one thing that I’ll remember, then it’s winning those seven races at Ascot.”