Frankie Dettori insists he has no plans to perform a retirement U-turn as he prepares to bring the curtain down on his glittering riding career in Britain on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot on October 21.
The legendary Italian has enjoyed a sensational final year in the saddle, with victories aboard Chaldean in the 2000 Guineas, Soul Sister in the Oaks and Courage Mon Ami in the Gold Cup just a few of the many highlights of his farewell tour.
His latest Group One success aboard Inspiral in Saturday’s Sun Chariot Stakes – his 500th winner at Newmarket – led to further speculation that Dettori might delay hanging up his saddle.
But while the 53-year-old admitted to being emotional both prior to and after Inspiral’s success, speaking on Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme, he reaffirmed his intention to call it a day before the end of 2023.
“It goes without saying I had a knot in my stomach yesterday, maybe because I was riding a short-priced favourite in Inspiral and maybe I was overthinking the tactics a bit,” he said.
“Then obviously I realised I was one short of 500 winners at Newmarket and there was only 14 days to go before I ride my last race in England, so all of that played on my mind a bit and I wasn’t myself.
“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel like this. After 36 years doing what I love, it’s very hard to come to terms with the fact it’s going to finish soon.
“I’ve been swept off my feet for the last six months, to be honest. When I said I was going to retire I thought it was going to become easy, but actually I’ve had twice as much workload as I’ve ever done!”
Before Champions Day Dettori is readying himself for one final appearance at Newmarket at this week’s Dubai Future Champions Festival, while beyond Ascot he has a number of international plans, with a the Melbourne Cup or an appearance in Hong Kong expected to be his swansong.
He added: “We’ve got Newmarket coming up this weekend, it’s going to be my last Newmarket and I think Newmarket are doing a bit of a drinks party for me after racing, which is good, as I can invite a lot of people that I’ve been working with.
“I’ll then be flying to Milan for my last ride in Milan, which is where it all started. My mum and dad and my sister are going and all my school friends, so that’s going to be pretty emotional, and then straight back into what is going to be my last week (in Britain). It’s going to be flat out as I have a million interviews to do and then we go to Ascot.
“I know I’m retiring, but I don’t want to take the gloss off Champions Day, because it’s all about coronating the best horses in every category – and lucky me, I’ve got some absolute weapons to ride that day, on top of my retirement.
“I’ve got to keep my eye on the ball because I’ve got some massive pressure rides, possibly Inspiral, King Of Steel, Kinross and Courage Mon Ami, so I’ve got to make sure I’m completely focussed.”
He continued: “I’m sure I will cry as it’s my last day. Then, of course, it doesn’t stop there because I’m flying to the States for the Breeders’ Cup, then to Melbourne and then I promised Marc Chan (owner) that I’d delay my retirement because he’s very keen to run Kinross in Hong Kong. If he doesn’t make it, Melbourne could be my last one (ride).
“I haven’t thought beyond Melbourne or Hong Kong. I’ve said I’ve retired and at the moment I’ve got every right to carry on with that. I’m looking forward to a good, decent meal and a nice holiday!
“Because I’m riding a few winners everybody is saying ‘you should be doing this’ or ‘you should be doing that’, but I’m 53 and for a jockey I’ve had a pretty long career.
“The time has come and I’m glad that I can finish like this. I didn’t expect to have a year like this, but I can’t predict the future.
“I will miss it, but at the other end I have enjoyed it. It would have been sad if I’d have been retiring not riding in the big races and just floating around at secondary meetings and not winning. It’s turned out to be quite a good send-off.”
For now Dettori is fully focussed on going out on a high at Ascot on what is sure to be an emotionally charged afternoon.
He said: “It’s a massive day and no one more than myself wants to do well and be calm and do the right things for every horse – that’s the challenge.
“I have 40 people coming, all my family and all my friends. There’s even more pressure to deliver, but I love it. I like the big days, I like to be nervous – I think I need that to get me to tick.
“Maybe I’m spoilt, but the mundane Mondays don’t excite me any more.”