FIVE DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD

The last 12 months have produced some of the most dramatic events in the history of sport. Here Independent writers recall moments of magic which will live long in the memory: Saturday 28 Sept; Seventh heaven for Dettori
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The card for the first day of Ascot's Festival meeting, on 28 September, had a distinctly trappy look to it. As the clever trousers with their form books pored over the options on a particularly competitive afternoon, other, smaller, punters around the country had thought of a better system. They helped themselves to the bonsai biros of the local betting shops and kept writing the name of Frankie Dettori's mounts on their slips. Seven winners later they helped themselves again from the counter.

There were numerous reports of people wagering in coppers and picking up tidy cheques after the Italian's unique achievement. His efforts made him the only jockey to go through the card (at odds of 25,095-1) at a seven-race meeting in Britain. Only two men have ever gone through a six- race card.

If this feat had to be achieved, it was almost inevitable that it would gravitate to the man from Milan. His historic moment came just six years to the day after he rode his first Group One winner, on Markofdistinction, and during that time he has made more impression on the sport since a chap called Lester Piggott was in his pomp. One of them looks permanently as if his pet dog has died, the other is close to being annoyingly upbeat all the time without ever quite managing it.

Dettori's first winner at Ascot was on Wall Street, where, doubtlessly, he will have a growing portfolio as his earnings both in and out of the sport expand. Then came Diffident and Mark Of Esteem, in the big race of the day, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

By the time Decorated Hero won the fourth, Dettori was beginning to assist the numerically challenged by holding up his digits to advertise the swelling achievement. The fingers kept flicking up as Fatefully, Lochangel and finally Fujiyama Crest galloped on to the manuscript of the record books.

It became as close to bonkers as a crowd at the Royal racecourse can get, and in the middle of them all was a little chap hosing his audience down from an immense champagne bottle. The trademark flying dismount had been heavily employed.

Since Dettori day the eponymous hero has barely had time to fit in sleep. Commemorative awards have been arriving by the crateload, his bottom has visited just about every chat-show host's settee - and he has even managed to ride a few more winners.

As for the bookmakers, 28 September 1996 was not the cataclysm they portrayed at the time. That lazy, and predictable, response detailed an occasion of unrecoverable penury. The full scale of this apocalypse was revealed recently when Coral announced their profits for the year.

Coral did not lose money in 1996. Following the nightmare that was Dettori day, their profits merely dwindled from pounds 17m to just a million pounds less. They say the day cost them pounds 4m, but are not willing to speculate on the free advertising or the size of the new influx of victims drawn to the betting shop. These bookmakers, as much as drama buffs, must thank Frankie Dettori for his unprecedented achievement.

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