It’s 25 years since Frankie Dettori almost single-handedly dismantled the British bookmaking industry with a sensational, through-the-card seven-fold at Ascot.
I’ve just written what you see above, but even now, a quarter of a century on, it’s still hard to believe that such a feat could be remotely possible. It’s not hard in fact – it’s well-nigh impossible.
On one of the most prestigious racedays of the season – Champions Day, with Group races, fiendishly tricky handicaps, up-and-coming stars confirming their potential – it was as competitive a card as you could wish to see.
Every season we have jockeys nailing fabulous three, and four-timers. David Probert managed a five-on-the-spin at Ffos Las not many weeks ago, and the likes of Tom Marquand, Hollie Doyle, and Brian Hughes over the sticks are just the kind of jocks you look at in terms of what they’ve got on any given day, but especially at, with great respect, the smaller tracks.
Big fish, small pond, great book of rides – you get my drift. Ideal conditions to run up some numbers. Back in September 1996 Frankie had, for sure, a great book of rides – but he had to win the following, on a huge raceday, at a Grade One track – The Cumberland Lodge, The Diadem, The QEII, The Tote Festival Handicap, The Rosemary Stakes, The Blue Seal Stakes, and finally The Gordon Carter Handicap.
He did exactly that. It’s staggering, frankly. Ridiculous. And at cumulative odds of around 25,000/1.
In that fateful last leg, Frankie’s mount Fujiyama Crest carried top weight of 10st, and had been trading at around the 12/1 mark earlier that morning. Dettori’s exploits, and the avalanche of money rolling on to ‘Crest,’ forced the horse into 2/1 favouritism.
He bravely prevailed, incredibly, to trigger scenes of jubilation at the Queen’s racecourse – but sheer, unimaginable horror at that very moment for virtually every bookmaker in the land.
Fred wondered for a spell whether he still had a business, such were the liabilities. Bookmakers the length and breadth of the country were gasping.
Hear now from Fred and fellow layer Gary Wiltshire, in conversation with Betfred’s Mark Pearson, about how their slice of the reported £30/40 million lost by the betting industry on the day affected them.
Frankie was already well-known – just a few weeks earlier I’d seen him sluice up on the brilliant Halling at my beloved York, in the Juddmonte – but this particular feat ensured a level of stardom and notoriety unknown since the heyday of Lester Piggott.
The other evening in New York city Emma Raducanu pulled off something utterly, and totally, remarkable. Nigh-on unbelievable. That’s what the then 25-yr-old Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori achieved on September 28th, 1996. A pinch yourself moment that sent huge ripples throughout the world of sport and beyond.
Here’s our little look back at a very memorable occasion indeed. Quite unforgettable. A simply astonishing afternoon. We hear from, and see, the Maestro himself, too.
Enjoy. I’ve a feeling that a certain rather fiery, inhospitable place will freeze over before it ever happens again.