Racing: Dettori admits title is out of reach

As the first anniversary of his seven-race winning sequence at Ascot looms, Frankie Dettori reflects on how his life was changed that day and how this year's jockeys' championship has slipped from his grasp. Richard Edmondson reports
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The Independent Online
They sat him on a donkey yesterday and he would have won on that at last year's Festival Of British Racing. Frankie Dettori's feet almost touched the ground for the first time since he rode all seven winners at Ascot 12 months ago this weekend as he straddled a little grey beast appropriately named Nutmeg.

Racing Spice, yesterday ruled out his chances of reclaiming the jockeys' championship, which must mean he is not going to win it because he was rather more upbeat about replicating the unique feat of 28 September, 1996. "I have got some good rides on Saturday and while I know the chances are very slim that I'll do it again I will be trying," Dettori said. "But as far as I am concerned I have absolutely no chance in the championship. I'm being realistic because I've got a six-day suspension and I haven't got time to catch Kieren [Fallon]. Good luck to him and I will be trying again next year."

The year that Dettori completes on Saturday has been the most memorable of his life. He left behind bachelorhood and any notion that he could wander in any city unnoticed. "Riding seven winners was fantastic and the day after was the start of a new life for me, not only in horseracing but outside it too," he said. "My life changed a lot, mostly for the good, and that day opened up new doors in the wide world and not just horseracing. I get recognised everywhere.

"Last winter I embarked on a world tour with Peter Burrell, my manager, thinking I'd ride a little bit and just have some fun and see some different countries. But everywhere we went there was an amazing reaction from the racing public."

Dettori appeared at Ascot yesterday in the piercing blue silks of Godolphin which he wore on four of his successful missions last year. The team from Arabia are likely to provide him with a similar number of opportunities on Saturday. While the recent Newbury winner, John Gosden's Russian Revival, is considered the Italian's best vehicle in the Diadem Stakes, he has not given up hope for Godolphin's Allied Forces in the pinnacle of the weekend, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

This was a compelling event last season, when Mark Of Esteem beat the noble filly Bosra Sham, and Saturday's renewal looks pale by comparison. Nine horses were declared yesterday and Allied Forces certainly does not appear a tramp at the feast despite a record of just one win from four outings this year.

"I don't think the milers are as good as last year," Dettori observed. "You have to fear the horses that are coming back, such as Revoque and Entrepreneur, but they still have a lot to prove. My horse is proven and he hasn't run a bad race this year. I have a great chance."

Bookmakers are expecting a volley of bets blindly supporting Dettori, from nutcases (including some of the same nutcases who won pounds 500,000 last year). Frankie is expecting a day rich in memories. "When I look back from two o'clock to five o'clock that day it was like a three-day event," he said. "The first event was the Queen Elizabeth, and when I won that I'd forgotten I'd also ridden the first two. My next ambition was to win the big handicap, the only race I hadn't won at the Festival, so Decorated Hero was another big achievement. By the time I got to the last I felt as though I was embarking on my third day.

"It never really entered my mind that I was going to win the last race which was probably why I did win it. When a jockey is hot it makes a difference.

"When I watch the video of the day I still get goosepimples. It was one of those occasions you never think is going to happen. When I watch it on the tape. It doesn't seem like it was me that did that. It was like someone had done a movie of it.

"It's going to be very emotional going back and I'm really looking forward to it. I am very excited about seeing the reaction of the people." The reciprocal feeling from racegoers will make one corner of Berkshire a particularly populated area this Saturday afternoon.