Picture: Frankie Dettori aboard Newgate this past spring at Santa Anita in the Robert Lewis S. | Benoit
Dettori Calls Off Retirement To Ride Full Time in U.S.
By Bill Finley (TDN)
Frankie is coming back to America.
The Italian-born superstar jockey Frankie Dettori, 52, had planned to retire at the end of the year, but pulled a U-turn Wednesday night when he told racing commentator Nick Luck that not only will he ride in 2024 but he plans to ride full-time in the U.S., beginning with the traditional opening day at Santa Anita, Dec. 26.
“I want to carry on a little bit longer in California, where I had such a lovely winter,” Dettori told Luck. “The dynamic of my year has changed so much. If I wasn’t riding any winners or not riding in the big races it would have made my decision much easier but at this point I’m still feeling good and I want to get it out of my system.”
At the Santa Anita meet that began on Dec. 26, 2022 and ran through April 9, 2023, Dettori finished third in the rider’s standings with 26 wins and won at an 18% rate. He won four stakes races.
“It’s terrific news for the sport, the fans, and California racing, in particular,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “I can’t wait to see more of his flying dismounts from my horses in the Santa Anita winner’s circle.”
Dettori will again represented by agent Ron Anderson.
“Things have been in the works for a while,” Anderson said. “I think he was rejuvenated coming to California last year. He is obviously very well received all over the world but he liked California and wanted to continue on. He’ll be there for opening day. I’m not saying this because he’s my friend, but he’s a breath of fresh air. He is so enthusiastic. That’s Frankie. He’s a different person altogether. Last year he called me on a Sunday night. He had won three races in California. He was so excited. I had to say to myself, ‘Is this the same guy who has won six Arcs or is this a kid who just won his first race?’ That’s the way he sounded, like a kid who had just won his first race. That’s Frankie. He’s just different. I’m very excited to have him back. His riding was magical while he was in California. It’s all good for everyone.”
Dettori is scheduled to ride in Great Britain for the final time Saturday in the Champions Day at Ascot. Afterward, he could ride in some international races outside of Europe and will be in the U.S. for the Breeders’ Cup, which will be run at Santa Anita on Nov. 3 and 4. He will then return to Santa Anita for the Dec. 26 opener.
Dettori told Luck that “the dream is to find a horse for the Kentucky Derby.”
He has ridden in Derby just once, finishing eighth aboard China Visit (Red Ransom) in 2000. Last year, Baffert used him on a handful of 3-year-olds that were prospects for the GI Kentucky Derby, but none made it to the race.
So far as what Dettori does after the Kentucky Derby, he was non-committal.
When asked by the Racing Post if he might return to the U.K. following the Derby, he replied: “I accept that’s a question but at the moment I can’t see any further than the Kentucky Derby. My goal is to get a decent ride in that. I therefore can’t answer the question yet.”
However, in his interview with Luck he made it clear that he was open to riding in the U.S. past the first Saturday in May.
“I want to travel, Kentucky, Florida, Saratoga, Del Mar, that’s what I want to do, that’s what excites me,” he said. “I’m going into uncharted waters.”