Frankie Dettori jokes about saving his marriage by racing into his 50s

Last Modified: 8th Aug


The world’s best horse racing jockey turned 50 last year and the enigmatic Italian has confirmed he has no plans to retire from the sport just yet. In fact, Dettori aims to race for at least another two seasons at the top level of horse racing in a bid to protect his marriage and save him from the boredom of retirement.

Although Dettori has already entered his sixth decade, the animated Italian has shown no signs of losing his edge on the course. For the third successive year in a row, Dettori was branded the world’s best jockey, based on his displays in the top-100 highest-rated Group One and Grade One races staged worldwide last year. Dettori and Stradivarius won a third consecutive Ascot Gold Cup last June and he racked up a further eight Group One victories across 2020, passing the 260 mark for career Grade One and Group One successes. His most impressive feat remains his near-impossible achievement of winning all seven races on a card at Royal Ascot in 1996. Although Royal Ascot is considered one of the most "high-society" racing events in the UK horse racing calendar, oddschecker still rates it favourably, listing it as one of its top-five British horse racing spectacles for betting tips and predictions every year, alongside the likes of Glorious Goodwood, the Cheltenham Festival and the Epsom Derby.

Dettori admitted that he had already “had a taste” of what it would be like to spend time away from the racecourse and the “pair of us [Frankie and wife Catherine] don’t like it”. The couple has been married since the eve of the new millennium, with Catherine the daughter of Professor William Allen, a prominent equine veterinary researcher within Newmarket’s horse racing industry and a fellow of Robinson College at Cambridge University.

Frankie and Catherine Dettori have five children together and currently live in the east Cambridgeshire village of Stetchworth, just three miles shy of Newmarket’s horse racing epicenter. The Dettoris’ former magnificent home of the White Horse Stables was recently put on the market according to Country Life. This idyllic six-bedroom equestrian-focused property underlines just how big a part horse racing plays in life for the Dettori household.

What is the secret to Frankie Dettori’s illustrious career?

The son of a successful Sardinian jockey named Gianfranco Dettori, Frankie left school long before exam age with a dream to become a stable boy and, eventually, an apprentice jockey. In 1985, Dettori was fortunate enough to secure employment as an apprentice with Newmarket-based Luca Cumani. Since then, British horse racing fans have been treated to a masterclass on the saddle from Dettori for well over 30 years.

Comparisons were justifiably made between Dettori and the legendary Lester Piggott back in 1990 when he became the first jockey since Piggott to win 100 races in a single season. Since then, Dettori has never looked back, nor has he appeared weighed down by the links between himself and Piggott. As of the end of the 2020 season, Dettori had racked up over 400 Group race wins in UK horse racing alone, with 19 British Classics included in that heady milestone.

He is someone that has never been afraid of performing on the big stage. In fact, the statistics suggest that the bigger the race, the better he performs. Outside of the UK, Dettori has bagged no less than six Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes – a current record in French racing – and 14 victories in the Breeders’ Cup. Popular British horse racing trainer John Gosden best described Dettori as a man capable of riding “to a level which is way beyond” his peers and “gets himself up for the big occasions”.

His racing style on the saddle also earns him praise from his contemporaries both in British and US horse racing. In fact, some compare his in-running approach to the leading US horse racing jockeys who rarely use their whip and instead use the power in the arms and legs to propel their horse forward. Whether it’s winning from seemingly impossible wide draws from the stalls to maintaining a lead with a front-running horse, there is literally nothing that Frankie Dettori hasn’t achieved in the world of horse racing.

What does the future hold for Dettori’s twilight years?

Wins – and plenty more of them. That’s if his recent performances at the 2021 Dubai World Cup carnival are anything to go by. Dettori opted to race in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) until March and was one of the most successful jockeys at Meydan, winning the last two races of the carnival’s opening night.

Dettori saddled a horse owned and trained by his former Godolphin employers, winning the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort with Land of Legends, before taking the listed Dubai Dash on board Equilateral – a horse Dettori’s had his eye on for a while because “English tracks are too demanding for him” and he was keen to give him a try at faster, slicker track like Meydan. Dettori said that he was “really enjoying” his time in the UAE and that he was trying desperately to “take it all in” while he’s still able to race competitively.


Sure, it’s fair to say that Dettori has had the luxury of working with some of the best trainers and thoroughbreds in the world of horse racing, but it takes a supreme jockey to tame the best of them. At the time of writing, Dettori has now worked with the vast majority of the leading British trainers, although his time with Saeed bin Suroor’s Godolphin and John Gosden are surely his most successful partnerships. The latter has provided Dettori with some of his most rewarding victories, not least with Stradivarius, Golden Horn, and Enable.

Yet aside from his racing attributes, it is Dettori’s unwavering enthusiasm and bounding spirit which sets him apart from the rest of the horse racing fraternity. His trademark dismount – flying through the air, arms held aloft – is synonymous with some of his biggest Group 1 wins. Dettori is a man that just loves to race. His former equine-focused family estate in Stetchworth is a testament to that. Dettori has even considered emulating Lester Piggott’s record of racing until he’s 59, which will be music to the ears of his wife Catherine.

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