In 2013, the great Yankees baseball pitcher Mariano Rivera announced his retirement. It was a strange final season, as Rivera’s travels with the Yankees around the baseball parks of America saw the legendary ball hurler receive standing ovations from rival teams and fans while remaining competitive as he strove to deliver success for the Yankees. What has that got to do with horses? Nothing, really. Except for the fact that we can draw parallels between one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history and one of the greatest jockeys in the history of horse racing, Frankie Dettori.
Like Rivera, Dettori has announced his retirement a year in advance. So across 2023, he has been saying goodbyes at the biggest and best horse racing venues around the world. He plans to have his final rides at the Breeders’ Cup Festival in November. Obviously, it provides a fitting backdrop to end a glittering career, but it will be at Ascot in England in October where the most emotional farewells will be said.
The Magnificent Seven at Ascot
Ascot and Dettori are wrapped up in each other’s history. Last month, Dettori extended his record to nine Ascot Gold Cup wins, with only Lester Piggott winning more. It was at Ascot where he forged his superstardom in the early 1990s, winning his first two Gold Cups and a host of other Group 1 events. It is where the crowds – including the royals – love him the most. Of course, it is also the scene of his crowing achievement on September 28th, 1996 – the Magnificent Seven.
For a jockey to win all seven races on an elite card, as was the case at what is now called British Champions Day at Ascot in 1996, cannot really be compared to feats in other sports. It wasn’t like, say, winning seven Super Bowls in succession; perhaps more like a star quarterback winning seven successive Super Bowls with seven different teams. Importantly for the feat, only a couple of the horses were favorites. The accumulative odds were over 25,000 to 1.
A Feat Never to Be Repeated
The Magnificent Seven has become one of the most fabled parts of British racing history and sports history in general. He single-handedly cost the UK betting industry around £30 million ($45 million). The feat has been celebrated in a range of online casino games, Franke Dettori’s Magic Seven slots, which bear the jockey’s image. Everyone connected to British racing remembers it. And if they are too young to remember, their parents will tell them about it.
Of course, Ascot is special in British racing, and it would be that way whether Dettori had a glittering career or not. It has those incredible royal connections and patronage – its main festival is called Royal Ascot for a reason – and it hosts some of the most important Group 1 races in the world. But Dettori is now Ascot royalty himself. Not just for the Magnificent Seven, although that forms a firm part of the Ascot legend, but for the countless winners and thrills he has given to the Ascot crowds over the last forty years.
British Champion Day at Ascot 2023 will take place on October 21st. It is almost certainly going to be Dettori’s final hurrah in the saddle in the UK. He’ll say goodbye to horse racing in the United States, but the venue where his most glittering accolades were collected will have the most magnificent farewell for one of horse racing’s true greats.
UPDATE AS OF OCT 2023: Dettori Cancels Retirement Plans to Ride in America
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