Frankie Dettori’s Magnificent 7: How It Happened at Ascot
For horse racing enthusiasts and racegoers, September 28th 1996, went down as one of the most incredible days in racing history.
It’s when legendary jockey Frankie Dettori rode all seven winners on the card at Ascot Racecourse.
Rarely would you associate the butterfly effect phenomenon with horse racing, but it’s almost impossible to experience a race day like Saturday, September 28th 1996, especially given the quality of racing we see at Ascot year after year.
Even Lester Piggott, who holds the record for most wins at Royal Ascot, described Frankie Dettori as the best jockey currently riding.
Back on that glorious summer day, Frankie Dettori – the reigning champion jockey – arrived at the hallowed Ascot turf with decent prospects. Many thought he was capable of a double, even a treble, with just one Ascot winner constituting a successful day at the Festival of British racing.
But Frankie Dettori achieved the near-impossible feat of winning all seven races on the card, costing the betting industry millions of pounds.
One punter, in particular, Mr Darren Yates, had a life-changing day after he placed a £62 bet on Dettori to win all seven races at Ascot and amassed a jaw-dropping £550,823.54 in winnings – if only we had his foresight!
According to official reports, the cumulative SP odds of his wins accumulated to 25,051-1, meaning that the actual value of the seven-fold accumulator was over 200,000/1!
Frankie Dettori’s winning rides were:
- Wall Street (2/1)
- Diffident (12/1)
- Mark Of Esteem (100/30)
- Decorated Hero (7/1)
- Fatefully (7/4)
- Lochangel (5/4)
- Fujiyama Crest (2/1)
Here’s how this extraordinary Saturday at Ascot went:
1. Wall Street (2/1) – Cumberland Lodge Stakes
At 2/1 odds, Wall Street’s win was anticipated by many, but few punters knew that this win would set the Italian jockey up for a day of success.
He guided the aptly-named Wall Street to glory in the mile-and-a-half race, beating Salmon Ladder by half a length to claim his first victory of the afternoon.
It was the first time Wall Street had gone that distance and only the third occasion that Frankie Dettori had ridden him, but the pair quickly became an iconic symbol.
2. Diffident (12/1) – Diadem Stakes
The jockey didn’t fancy his chances in the Diadem Stakes – now known as the British Champion Sprint – as Diffident had a series of disappointing runs and wasn’t in his best form going into the race.
It was also the first time Dettori had ridden the 12/1 shot; however, fortune was on his side.
The six-furlong sprint was run relatively slowly, which favoured Diffident. Dettori’s mount was neck-to-neck with pre-race favourite Lucayan Prince coming up the home straight but managed to win by a shoulder.
Diffident’s run at Ascot stands out among his seven career winnings and certainly got racegoers talking.
3. Mark of Esteem (100/30) – Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
Frankie Dettori recorded the hat-trick on Mark of Esteem, who did battle with Sir Henry Cecil-trained Bosra Sham in the day’s feature race.
Ashkalani was the bookmaker’s favourite, but he never got near to a challenge and placed fifth behind Mark of Esteem’s stablemate Charwood Forest.
It was a tough race with similarly priced Bosra Sham in the mix. Dettori asked Mark of Esteem for maximum effort with a furlong to go, and the three-year-old colt didn’t disappoint.
Mark of Esteem lowered himself to the ground and romped to glory, outrunning Bosra Sham by one-and-a-quarter lengths – a win that earned him the title of best miler in Europe. In the same year, he was announced as Timeform’s Horse of the Year, having also been victorious in the 2,000 Guineas and Celebration Mile in 1996.
Former racing manager of Godolphin stables, Simon Crisford, recalls:
“We couldn’t see Mark Of Esteem being beaten, but Henry Cecil said the same about Bosra Sham. And he had trained both horses.
“But when Mark of Esteem changed gears, he was extraordinary. He’d lower himself to the ground like a sports car.”
He was later retired to Darley Stud, where he sired four G1 winners and 11 G1 performers, including Reverence, Sir Percy and Redback.
4. Decorated Hero (7/1) – Tote Festival Handicap
At this point, the phones were ringing off the hooks, and the queues were growing longer at betting stations.
Even people that had little interest in horse racing were aware that something genuinely spectacular was happening. As a result, they were willing to take a gamble on Frankie Dettori’s rides.
There were 26 runners in the field, and as Decorated Hero was carrying the top weight of 9st 13lb, his chances of winning the race looked slim, but Dettori’s luck hadn’t run out.
The aptly-named horse, Decorated Hero, had relatively long odds at 7/1 but maintained the Italian jockey’s winning momentum by claiming the Tote Festival Handicap (now known as the Champion Stakes).
He stormed home with a three-and-a-half length victory to land Frankie his fourth win on Ascot Saturday.
5. Fatefully (7/4) – Rosemary Stakes
His fifth win came from Fatefully, and while it was a narrow victory, it was a thrilling race nonetheless.
Dettori went up against his close friend and rival Ray Cochrane who was riding Abeyr, and boy did the race go down to the wire. As the horses lined up, Cochrane recalled saying to Dettori: “Is anyone else getting a chance today?”
The answer was no.
While it was hard to distinguish who was leading as they approached the finishing line, Fatefully claimed victory by a neck.
Frankie Dettori had now written himself into Ascot history with five wins from five, but he didn’t stop there.
6. Lochangel (5/4) – Blue Seal Conditions Stakes
By now, bookmakers had suffered tremendous damage, and the sixth race looked like more of a formality for I A Balding-trained horse Lochangel.
The 5/4 favourite carried Jeff Smith’s purple and blue silks to victory by three-quarters of a length in the Blue Seal Condition Stakes, earning Frankie Dettori a record-equalling sixth win. The Italian jockey now levelled records set by three other jockeys: Sir Gordon Richards, Alec Russell and Willie Carson.
It was a fantastic race day debut for Lochangel, who ensured Dettori returned to the winners’ enclosure for the sixth time at Ascot.
Owner Jeff Smith recalled: “I still cannot believe it happened, still less that I was a small part of it – a magical memory.”
7. Fujiyama Crest (2/1) – Gordon Carter Stakes
Frankie Dettori’s seventh winner was 2/1 favourite Fujiyama Crest.
Fujiyama Crest had started the day at 12/1, but bookies slashed his odds ahead of the final race of the meeting – the Gordon Carter Stakes.
Millions of people had gathered in bettings shops across the country to watch his last ride. The BBC even interrupted its traditional Grandstand coverage to broadcast the action live from Ascot.
There was little confidence in Fujiyama Crest, as he was carrying the top weight of 10 st and was in bad form, losing his last race at Newcastle Racecourse by 43 lengths.
The 2/1 shot broke away from the pack early on in the race, and while Eddery, who was aboard Northern Fleet, made a challenge, Fujiyama Crest held off Eddery’s charge to win by a neck.
And Frankie Dettori’s place in history was sealed.
It was an iconic victory and a spectacular day for punters, although not so much for bookmakers as that race day cost them £30 million!
One young bookmaker, Gary Wiltshire, reported losses of £1.4m in the last race of the day, which put him through some hardship.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Wiltshire said:
“Everyone thinks that bookies win all the time, but they don’t. You have to sell your house [for £660,000], sell your cars and pay up as that is what you do.”
Wiltshire said he would do it again in a heartbeat despite losing significant amounts of money! He added that he was grateful to Dettori as his run of luck got him job opportunities with Sky Sports and the BBC.
Frankie Dettori’s Magnificent Seven will go down in horse racing folklore as one of the most incredible race days in history.