Frankie Dettori recalls miraculous 'Magnificent Seven': 'It was that day made me famous'

A quarter of a century ago today, the Italian, 25 at the time, achieved what seemed impossible by going through a seven-race card at Ascot
Frankie Dettori recalls miraculous 'Magnificent Seven': 'It was that day made me famous'

Frankie Dettori leaps for joy after winning the 1996 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, leg three of his famous Magnificient Seven. Picture: Allsport UK

Frankie Dettori is as much in the public psyche today as he was 25 years ago — when a racing miracle happened.

The Italian, 25 at the time, achieved what seemed impossible by going through a seven-race card at Ascot on September 28, 1996.

In typical Dettori fashion it happened not at an average meeting, but on one of the biggest days of the year — the Festival of British Racing, and forerunner of Champions Day.

Dettori was already the reigning champion jockey, so the 'Magnificent Seven' — as it was inevitably coined — was not the launching pad for his career but more of a sonic boost which has lasted for the next quarter of a century and will doubtless go far beyond.

The once-in-a-lifetime achievement catapulted him from well-known jockey to household name. He became a regular on television, hosting BBC's Top of the Pops and becoming a captain on A Question Of Sport. He had his own brands of food and went into restaurant ownership with chef Marco Pierre White — among other trappings associated with a superstar.

Dettori's autobiography, published in 2004, has been updated and is due out next month.

At this time of year, his Ascot feat is always a big talking point. The passing years have not dimmed the memory, nor the interest in an extraordinary occurrence.

"It does seem 25 years when I watch the replays! Mind you, what a day. And now I'm 50," he said.

"It was that day made me famous. I watched the replays the other day, because I was doing a documentary.

"It's what dreams are made of. You can't put your head round it, how the thing happened.

"It was mad, absolutely mad. At least it gave the sport a good lift. Usually it's all about negative stuff — it was nice to have some positive stuff.

"To me, it was my turning point really."

Dettori knew he had a good book of rides and realistic hopes of a double or a treble — but going through the card at accumulative odds of 25,095-1 was not even dream territory.

Wall Street (2-1 favourite) got the ball rolling in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes, and appropriately an estimated £30m 'crash' was already in the making for bookmakers.

Diffident (12-1) swiftly followed in the Diadem Stakes — with Mark of Esteem (100-30) then taking the big race of the day, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

There was no stopping Dettori now. 

With his confidence sky high after that Group 1 triumph, he guided top-weight Decorated Hero (7-1) to a convincing victory over 25 rivals in the Tote Festival Handicap.

After he had steered Fatefully (7-4 favourite) to a narrow success in the Rosemary Stakes, Lochangel (5-4 joint-favourite) took Dettori within touching distance of history by winning the Blue Seal Stakes.

Expectation reached fever pitch come the concluding Gordon Carter Handicap. 

The BBC captured the moment by interrupting its traditional Grandstand coverage to broadcast the live action from Ascot as bookies slashed the odds for Dettori's final mount, Fujiyama Crest.

With the layers' liabilities sky high and punters' faith in the 'Frankie Factor', Fujiyama Crest was sent off the 2-1 favourite — having started the day at 12-1. Leading from the start, Michael Stoute's charge held off the late challenge of Northern Fleet and Pat Eddery by a neck to seal Dettori's place in the history books.

Dettori's feat was unmatched, topping the previous best on six-race cards by Gordon Richards at Chepstow in 1933 and Alec Russell at the long defunct Bogside in 1957. Ascot even erected a statue of Dettori to mark the unprecedented events.

His career went from strength to strength after that defining day, too.

Dettori became champion jockey for a third time in 2004, ended his Derby hoodoo on Authorized in 2007 — and in recent seasons has ridden such popular champions as Enable and Stradivarius.

At the age of 50, his appetite for winners, and his love for racing, has not diminished — with any talk of retirement very much remaining on the backburner, as the big winners keep on coming.

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