Graham Clark on the 20th anniversary of Frankie Dettori riding all seven winners on the card at Ascot...
Every once in a while, racing produces a moment of such significance that it not only captures the attentions of those writing the headlines but reaches beyond the parameters of the sport.
Twenty years ago today Frankie Dettori conjured up one of those very flashpoints when he became the first jockey in Britain to ride seven winners at the same meeting during an unforgettable afternoon at Ascot on September 28, 1996.
Not only did the 25,095-1 seven-timer (at starting prices) send seismic shock waves throughout the betting industry - hitting it for a reported £40million - it propelled the Italian to the A-list status he enjoys today as arguably the sport’s most famous figure.
While the three-times champion, who is famous for his flying dismounts, can now reflect upon that career changing day with great fondness, his frame of mind entering the meeting was focused primarily on achieving victory aboard one horse in particular.
“I was concentrating on the QEII, “ said Dettori.
“That was the decider for the trainers’ championship. On paper, it looked a two-horse race between Mark Of Esteem and Bosra Sham who were the two Guineas winners.
“I thought my best ride was the first, Wall Street, and that maybe I had a chance on Lochangel in the conditions race. The rest I couldn’t see winning. The first one won and the rest is history.”
After teaming up with Saeed bin Suroor for victories with Wall Street then with Diffident, the battle of the two Guineas winners went his way as Mark Of Esteem left behind his disappointment in the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting to complete a treble for the pair and to set up one of racing’s most iconic moments.
Dettori said: “The fourth and fifth came pretty much on a high after the QEII. I was on such an adrenalin buzz and then when I got to the sixth I took a step back and said, ‘I can equal the record here’.
“I started panicking again. There was such a good buzz until then. I got to the sixth and thought, ‘I can win this’, so I was back under pressure. When that won I went berserk.
“Myself, Willie Carson, Alex Russell and Sir Gordon Richards had now won six in a day. In 320 years of horse racing I was one in four.
By the time I got to the seventh I forget what I had done, I was a million miles away.”
As wins for Decorated Hero, Fatefully and Lochangel saw him make it six from six, it was all down to the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Fujiyama Crest to deliver that dream result - one which would send bookmakers into meltdown - by gaining back-to-back wins in the concluding two-mile handicap.
Having earlier been available at much greater odds than the 2-1 at which he was returned, the game gelding read the script to perfection when he tenaciously put his head down to hold off Northern Fleet by a neck.
“When the last came on Fujiyama Crest I thought, ‘This can’t win’, but then he was made 2-1 favourite,” said Dettori.
“I had this didn’t-care-attitude because I thought the horse couldn’t win. I went out there and as I knew he was a front-runner I let him gallop on.
“We turned for home and I could hear the crowd going berserk. Old Fujiyama was getting tired. He was treading water and going up and down on the spot, but the line was there in time.
“Winning on Mark Of Esteem was great but it was on Fujiyama Crest that it became record-breaking stuff.
“It was one of those freaky moments that not even I could explain why it happened.”
What was to follow was above and beyond those involved in the sport could ever have imagined possible.
“At the time I didn’t realise what I achieved,” said Dettori.
“By the time I had got to the seventh race, I had done so many interviews I didn’t know where I was.
“I was tired, he (Fujiyama Crest) was tired and, to me, the impact was just winning another race.
“It wasn’t until the next day when I opened the newspapers and I opened my front door and there were cameramen and paparazzi there. I realised then this was really big. I put the telly on, I was in the news. It changed my life. I did a lot of chat shows, was on Question Of Sport, Top Of The Pops, morning TV and at the time I was one of the first racing people to do so. It was nice to see racing talked about for the right reasons.
“Also I helped to win thousands for people from all walks of life, from housewives to taxi drivers - all from their £1 or £5 accumulators.
“It was brilliant and just a great story and I can’t believe it was 20 years ago.
“I will be remembered for that as my best achievement.”
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