SJA Sportsman of the Year: The case for Frankie Dettori

VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED to decide the winners of three major categories at the British Sports Awards 2023, to be held at The Kia Oval in London on 7 December; Jake Wightman, Beth Mead and the Lionesses claimed the 2022 honours; who will take the top prizes this year?

By Max Metcalfe

When you think of horse racing, you think of Frankie Dettori.

The legendary Italian has been the face of the sport for the majority of his 36 years in it, and this year has been no exception.

Love him or hate him, Dettori’s career has been nothing short of spectacular: from his ‘Magnificent Seven’ that saw him complete an unlikely Ascot seven-timer, to his six victories in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, there is a case for declaring him the greatest to ever do it.

In his final year in British racing, the 52-year-old has shown the sort of class and judgement that has seen him become a globally revered figure.

Dettori’s 2023 started in the $5million Dubai Turf where he partnered Lord North to a third successive win in the race, before returning to the UK in May and powering to classic success on Chaldean in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

A month later, he completed a stylish Epsom Group One double, winning the Coronation Cup on Emily Upjohn before partnering with Soul Sister to win the Oaks.

Another successful Royal Ascot, where Dettori has celebrated 80 winners, saw Courage Mon Ami battle to win the Gold Cup, bringing out the famous flying dismount in front of an adoring crowd.

It is this connection with fans that few other figures in racing have come close to, with Dettori’s seemingly endless charisma endearing him to the British public.

Inspiral has been a horse with whom he has struck up a close connection in recent years and the two of them romped to three Group One victories in 2023, winning the Prix Jacques le Marois in France, the Sun Chariot back at Newmarket, and finally the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in California.

Dettori’s ride at Santa Anita was one that typified his expert judgement, surging from the rear on the high-class mare to steal victory at the track which will remain his home for the foreseeable.

Perhaps the most memorable of his successes this season came when he propelled King of Steel to Champion Stakes victory, sending a sodden Ascot crowd into a frenzy and providing a fitting sendoff for the greatest jockey of his generation.

Registering 10 Group One wins in all this year, alongside a host of other top-level victories, Dettori has cemented his place as an all-time great and proven that he’s still at the top of his game.

John Gosden, trainer of numerous Dettori winners, said last week: “He’s 52, riding like a 32-year-old.”

One more year Frankie?

Sports journalist Max Metcalfe is a member of the SJA Academy – find out more about membership here.

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