Is Frankie Dettori the best Flat jockey ever – even surpassing the legendary Lester Piggott – in racing’s Sport of Kings?
Italian maestro Dettori, MBE, wowed the 2019 Royal Ascot meeting, underlined by riding the first four winners on Thursday’s June 20 card, including the £500,000 Gold Cup, on board Stradivarius.
“What a horse Stradivarius is – a horse for the big occasion – people love him,” said Dettori, after completing back to back Gold Cup successes, having won the race in 2018.
Stradivarius, trained by John Gosden, tipped to win by fromthehorsesmouth.tips was heavily backed to win the £283,550 first prize.
“It’s great for everyone connected with the horse – every time he runs he delivers. He doesn’t know how to lose. A fantastic horse,” said Dettori.
“Frankie Dettori rode a beautiful race,” said trainer Gosden, whose star stayer won the 2018 Yorkshire Cup, the Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup – to bag a £1m bonus, through the inaugural Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million.
Dettori had the bookies running scared on Ladies Day, after winning on A’Ali, Sangarius, Star Catcher, and Stradivarius.
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Dettori, 48, champion jockey three times, has rode more than 500 Group race winners, including the memorable British Champions Day at Ascot in 1996, when riding all seven winners on the racecard.
In 2012 Dettori split from riding with Godolphin racing, after being found guilty of reportedly taking cocaine, of which he was suspended from riding for six months.
Pocket-rocket Dettori, 5′ 4″, and his wife Catherine, live in Stetchworth, Newmarket, with their five children.
Legend Piggott, 83, rode 4,493 career winners, including nine Derby victories, his first being in 1954 on Never Say Die, aged 18.
Born on November 5, 1935, Piggott certainly lit up the racing world, notching up the British Flat racing champion jockey crown on 11 occasions.
Piggott, who retired in 1985 and became a trainer, was jailed for six months and stripped of his OBE, for tax fraud.
Piggott, who rode his first winner at the age of 12, made a dramatic comeback to the saddle in 1990, prior to officially retiring in 1995.
Piggott was in attendance with HM The Queen at Royal Ascot last week, where a statue of him was unveiled, in recognition of his services to racing.
Trainer Mark Johnston believes Dettori is on a par with Piggott, deemed one of the greatest Flat racing jockeys of all time.
“On the big day, Frankie Dettori is special. No disrespect to Lester Piggott – a superhero – but to not call Frankie on the same terms would not be fair on him. He has been the most fantastic jockey for British racing,” said Johnston.
Dettori on a par? For me, Lester Piggott is the best jockey. Frankie, on this occasion, is the runner-up.