With Frankie Dettori (seen here on one of his many visits to the Museum) soon to have his last ride in Britain on Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday 21 October, Stephen Wallis of The Paddock and the Pavilion briefly summarises one of the greatest days in the history of sport. A day when Frankie and Horseracing made the front pages.
Saturday 28 September 1996 is one of the most famous dates in the history of the turf. Then a 25 year old ebullient and brilliantly talented Italian grabbed the world’s headlines when he “went through the card” at Ascot’s Festival meeting.
Champion jockey at the time Frankie Dettori was already well known and stable jockey for Sheikh Mohammed’s mighty Godolphin team but events that afternoon catapulted him into super stardom.
His day began with an expected win in the royal blue Godolphin silks on the 2/1 favourite Wall Street in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes. Number two came via the 12/1 outsider Diffident for his retained stable in the Diadem Stakes.
Next up was the feature race of the day, the Queen Elizabeth II stakes where Frankie rode Mark of Esteem, Godolphin’s 2000 Guineas winner. To complete the treble, a furlong from home an inspired Frankie found a gap off the rails to cut down Henry Cecil’s classic winning filly Bosra Sham.
Decorated Hero won the festival handicap in a 26 runner field under top weight to make it four while Fatefully, once again for Godolphin, made it a nap hand, and the six timer was secured by the two year old Lochangel trained by Ian Balding.
BBC Grandstand even interrupted the football results to show the race.
Frankie made all on the Michael Stoute trained Fujiyama Crest, under 10st, to win the Gordon Carter Handicap by a neck to complete a 25,051/1 seven timer and empty the bookies’ satchels.
A 12/1 outsider in the morning, but due to the seismic betting frenzy following Frankie, the four year old had been backed down to 2/1 favourite.
Entering the winner’s enclosure, the ecstatic crowd was treated to a flamboyant flying dismount before the spray of champagne by the conquering hero.
A perfect day for Frankie, his devoted followers and the Sport of Kings.