Royal Ascot: Frankie Dettori loves the atmosphere of riding winners on Flat racing’s biggest stage

“I’m no different to an actor going on stage at the theatre.” Frankie Dettori has had many an encore at Royal Ascot and this year his excitement for the return of fans to Flat racing’s biggest stage is enormous.

The 73-time Royal Ascot-winning jockey will be one of the many star attractions for the 12,000 daily crowd at the five-day meeting in Berkshire next week.

Now 50-years-old, Dettori has the luxury of being selective with his rides and arrives fresh from last weekend’s victory on board Snowfall in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom.

“Everybody knows that I’m quite lucky at Ascot,” Dettori told Sky Sports Racing. “The crowd gets behind me and I love it.

“I need the crowd, I need the atmosphere. I can smell it, I can breathe it, I can taste it. It’s part of me. I’m addicted to it.

“To me it’s everything, I live for it. It’s like Ian Poulter playing the Ryder Cup, I thrive on Royal Ascot. It’s what I love.

“Now that the Derby and the Oaks have gone I can completely focus on that.”

Dettori does his famous flying dismount after winning on board Palace Pier

There were no spectators on track to enjoy Dettori’s final day 150-1 treble last year, as he swept late to defend the meeting’s top jockey award.

That was the eighth time Dettori has been crowned with the jockey’s title and he sees no reason why that can’t become nine.

“Why not? We go into Ascot every year and everybody thinks they’ve got good rides. They’re hard to win.

Royal Ascot Group 1 races

2.30 Tuesday – The Queen Anne Stakes

3.40 Tuesday – The King’s Stand Stakes

4.20 Tuesday – The St James’s Palace Stakes

3.40 Wednesday – The Prince of Wales’s Stakes

4.20 Thursday – The Gold Cup

3.40 Friday – The Commonwealth Cup

4.20 Friday – The Coronation Stakes

4.20 Saturday – The Diamond Jubilee Stakes

“Now we’ve got one extra race every day, to win it you need at least six. The days you used to win it with four are long gone.

“If you can get one on the board the first day, you can relax and then let it all happen. If you get to Thursday and you’ve had no winners then it’s squeaky time. You start chasing it and you start making mistakes.

“Last year I had three winners going into Saturday. I had a couple of chances but then Campanelle goes in, the filly Alpine Star wins and I had Palace Pier. When that won, great, leading rider again.

“It was an amazing year last year. The Gold Cup, winning that by 10 lengths with Stradivarius, his third one.

Frankie Dettori celebrates his third Ascot Gold Cup win on Stradivarius


Stradivarius and Dettori are a partnership ‘born to be together’ but the top jockey is feeling the pressure of their bid for a record-equalling fourth Ascot Gold Cup

“This year there’s a lot of pressure because Yeats won four [Gold Cups] and all eyes are going to be on him [Stradivarius].

“This year we’ve got 12,000 people to create an atmosphere and that’s what we want.”

Dettori has ridden 73 Royal Ascot winners, with his first coming back in 1990
Dettori has ridden 73 Royal Ascot winners, with his first coming back in 1990

Of all the many trophies on show at Dettori’s swish Suffolk home, his first Donkey Derby win at Newmarket takes pride of place alongside a commemorative rug to mark his 70th Royal Ascot triumph.

“Lester [Piggott] is out on his own with 116 winners but to be second is amazing,” Dettori explains. “I’m not done yet so let’s hope we can rack up a few more this year.”

Of all his victories at the Royal meeting, for his favourite you have to venture back over 30 years to 1990 when Markofdistinction gave the then 19-year-old his first taste of Ascot glory.

“The one that means the most is the first one. Now that I’m 50, I’m looking back to what I was like.

“It was sheer excitement. It means everything.

“Youth is great and we took for granted the days we’d get a couple of hours’ sleep and go straight to work. Now, if I don’t get my eight hours’ sleep I’m dead!”

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