• Rewind to 1996

Frankie Dettori's Magnificent Seven

Jo Carter September 23, 2010
Frankie Dettori celebrates completing his 'Magnificent Seven' © PA Photos

A bronze statue at the entrance to Ascot racecourse commemorates the day Frankie Dettori achieved the impossible.

On September 28 1996, Dettori rode his way into history, winning all seven races on the card at the Ascot Festival, a feat that was previously regarded as unachievable and may never be repeated.

Dettori was already a well-known and popular jockey, but his exploits propelled him into the spotlight and the diminutive Italian became a household name. His 25,051-1 accumulator earned one lucky punter more than £500,000 as he completed his 'Magnificent Seven'.

On a day that Dettori single-handedly cost the betting industry more than £30 million, his first ride was ironically called Wall Street, and Dettori guided the three-year-old colt home over the mile-and-a-half course to claim his first victory of the afternoon in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes.

After claiming a routine victory aboard the 2/1 favourite in the first race, his second mount was a decidedly different matter. Diffident had had a series of disappointing results and Dettori had little chance of victory on the 12/1 shot. But in a slow-run Diadem Stakes, Dettori claimed his second win of the afternoon.

By the time he claimed victory in the big-money Queen Elizabeth II Stakes aboard Mark Of Esteem, the bookmakers were starting to look worried.

Doubts were raised over the condition of the horse after it had sweated profusely in the parade ring, but the race came down to a two-way battle between Mark of Esteem and Henry Cecil's super filly Bosra Sham. Dettori asked his mout for maximum effort with a furlong to go and passed Bosra Sham and Pat Eddery to claim victory No. 3.

"I decided it was time to go and pulled him out and asked for the effort," Dettori said after the race. "The delivery was like a fuel injection - it just knocked me out of my seat. The crowd went ballistic."

The aptly named Decorated Hero carried Dettori to his fourth win in the Tote Festival Handicap - at a modest 7/1. In a field featuring 26 runners Dettori's chances of continuing his glorious run were thin. But Lady Luck was on firmly on his side, and a fourth victory came courtesy of a three-and-a-half length victory. "He's done it again!" screamed commentator Peter O'Sullevan.

Dettori performs his trademark flying dismount from © Getty Images

Next up for Dettori was Fatefully in the Rosemary Stakes, claiming a narrow victory from friend and rival Ray Cochrane aboard Abeyr. "As we pulled up the horses were very close," recalled Cochrane. "I said, 'Is anyone else getting a chance today?'".

Victory aboard Lochangel in the Blue Seal Stakes continued an astonishing afternoon for Dettori as he returned to the winners' enclosure for the sixth time.

The BBC halted its traditional Grandstand coverage to broadcast the live action from Ascot as bookies slashed the odds for his final mount, Fujiyama Crest. Despite his limited credentials, the horse went off as 2/1 favourite - having been a 12/1 longshot just a few hours earlier.

"Everybody wanted to beat him on that last race," Cochrane recalled. "He was making the run and going flat out. We thought; this horse can't keep going, he's got 10 stone - top weight - he can't keep going."

But he did. Fujiyama Crest held off the fast-finishing Northern Fleet to seal Dettori's place in the history books, to the delight of the Ascot racegoers.

"We abused him after the race, covered him in champagne, gave him a good hiding," said Cochrane. "It was a great day, a great day for racing really, never mind just him."

Dettori's achievement at Ascot is considered one of the greatest sporting feats of all time, but he did not forget the horse that carried him there.

Five years on from his most famous race, Dettori discovered that the eight-year-old Fujiyama Crest was going to the sales. In the summer of 2001, Dettori bought the horse that took him over the line for the seventh time on that famous day and retired him immediately. The world-famous horse now enjoys life as a family pet at the Dettori household in Newmarket.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk