Frankie Dettori: Jockey says he will ride one last season before retiring

Dettori performs one of his trademark flying dismounts from the Stradivarius at Royal Ascot in 2019

Jockey Frankie Dettori has announced that 2023 will be his last season.

The 52-year-old, one of the sport’s most famous figures, has ridden more than 3,300 British winners since his first back in 1987.

His victories also include 21 British Classic successes and three champion jockey titles.

“Next year, 2023, will be my last professional year as a jockey. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” he told ITV Racing.

“My heart wants to keep riding, but I have to use my brain. I want to stop at the top. It’s been difficult, but I think it’s the right time.”

The Italian-born jockey plans to start his final season at Santa Anita on December 26, and his last ride could be at the same California track during the 2023 Breeders’ Cup next November.

He is still widely remembered for his Magnificent Seven performance at Ascot in September 1996, where he went through the card and took all seven races at odds of 25,051-1.

In June 2000 he and fellow jockey Ray Cochrane survived a plane crash at Newmarket which killed the pilot Patrick Mackey. Cochrane pulled Dettori from the burning wreckage.

Another challenging period was a six-month ban at the end of 2012 for failing a drug test, which he later admitted was a positive test for cocaine.

Since 2015 he has worked as first jockey for John Gosden, who now trains with his son Thady. But last June there was a well-publicised split between jockey and trainer described as a “sabbatical year”, even if Dettori was soon back riding for Gosdens.

Dettori’s decision to call it a day is not one he has taken lightly.

“It’s a very difficult decision because my heart wants to keep riding but I’ve had to use my brain and I’ve just turned 52 and next year I’ll be 53,” he said.

“I want to be competitive enough to do my owners and my horses justice next year and I think I’m still in that bracket of being good. It was difficult but it’s the right time.

“I spoke to my father for a long time. My father left at 51, he is very supportive and I also had to speak to my wife and children who are happy because they have hardly seen me in 35 years.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks and I’ve decided that with the firepower I have next year and the horses I have to ride, I can finish my career in a big way. Fingers crossed I stay in one piece and we will try it next year.

“Look at Ronaldo, one day he’s playing and the next he’s on the bench. I don’t want to end up like that and end up struggling to get rides in the big races. At the moment I still have good horses to ride and I will end like this.”

AP McCoy, the 20-time champion jumps jockey who retired in 2015, was among those paying tribute to Dettori.

“The hardest part is knowing when to stop,” McCoy said. “It’s all about beating the bell – and Frankie goes out on top.

“He rides Lionel Messi – you can’t teach a kid to ride a bike like Frankie Dettori.”

Analysis

Frank Keogh, BBC Sport

Frankie Dettori will leave a huge void in horse racing as one of the sport’s most recognized, talented and charismatic individuals.

He made headlines around the world with his Magnificent Seven at Ascot, a highlight of a career where the word “roller coaster” fits perfectly.

That success led to TV appearances as presenter of Top of the Pops and captain of A Question of Sport. He even launched his own pizza line.

In 2000, he was lucky to escape with his life in a plane crash at Newmarket.

Dettori enjoyed great success as the number one jockey for Sheikh Mohammed’s powerful Godolphin stable before a split and six-month ban after testing positive for cocaine left his career at a crossroads in 2013.

His reunion with old mentor John Gosden brought renewed success, including a second Derby win at Epsom for the jockey with Golden Horn and a string of major race successes with the likes of Enable and Stradivarius.

Dettori, who celebrated his 52nd birthday on Thursday, will now effectively embark on a year-long farewell tour of the US, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the UK.

And then there will be a final flying descent for racing’s greatest showman.

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