BY Joe Cahal
Frankie Dettori’s Derby win on the hugely impressive and still unbeaten Golden Horn has been described by the three-time champion jockey as his “most thrilling moment” in his 28 year racing career.
The 44-year-old, who has survived a fatal plane crash as well as exile and suspension for cocaine use, capped his glorious comeback with a thrilling victory at Epsom, punching the air as he crossed the line and delighting crowds with his trademark flying dismount in the winner’s enclosure.
“I’ve had a colourful life, but I’m not finished,” said the immensely popular and successful Italian afterwards, tantalizing racing fans with the prospect of more Dettori magic this summer.
Indeed, his legion of followers didn’t have long to wait because Dettori himself didn’t hang around long at Epsom to savor his Derby win – he was back in the saddle at a different course just three hours later to ride Hathal to victory in the 19:30 at Lingfield.
It is such commitment that separates champions from also-rans and is characteristic of Dettori’s determination and hunger for success following his exile from the sport he so clearly loves.
Just three years ago Dettori’s career looked finished when he was sidelined by Godolphin and then suspended for six months after testing positive for cocaine in France.
It seemed a very sad end to a glorious career that had first made headlines around the world in 1996 with a record-breaking “Magnificent Seven” at Ascot – Dettori riding all the winners at one meeting at combined odds of more than 25,000-1.
He followed that up in 2000 by winning the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race, and just weeks later he survived a plane crash that killed the pilot.
It took until 2007 to end his Derby jinx, winning the race on Authorized and Dettori followed that up the very next day by winning the French Derby on Lawman.
Saturday’s 236th Derby was Dettori’s 20th and his first in the Classic since 2011.
“I told my dad after the race that in my 28 years of riding that was my most thrilling moment, even more so than Ascot,” said Dettori.
“Maybe because I’m older and realised how important it was, or the fact that I am running out of years. It was really special.
“When you’re young, you don’t really appreciate the full importance of this Derby, so it means a great deal to win it for the second time.
“This time I enjoyed it more,” he said, adding: “The Derby is the best race in the world and everybody wants to win it.”
The 13-8 favorite Golden Horn clocked the third fastest ever time around the famous track to beat his stablemate Jack Hobbs by three-and-a-half lengths, with Storm The Stars finishing third.
The Derby winner remains unbeaten after four races and Dettori and Golden Horn are expected to ride next in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on July 4, and then possibly on to York for the Juddmonte International Stakes on August 19.