Over the 250 or so years in which we have been lucky to enjoy horse racing, there have of course been many remarkable achievements. Trainers, horses and jockeys have made the impossible possible, punters have defied odds that that made the bookies wince, and countless sensational records have been achieved.
However, when it comes to jockeys having a good day, if we may use such a glorious understatement, are there any that can match Frankie Dettori’s Magnificent Seven at Ascot? Most racing experts would say not, and certainly not within living memory is there anything to rival what the popular Italian achieved on the 28th September 1996.
Dettori Rides Seven Out of Seven Winners on Ascot Card
For those entirely unaware of what Frankie Dettori’s Magnificent Seven, as it has been dubbed, was, take note: on the 28th September, 1996, Dettori rode the winner in all seven races on Ascot’s card. In doing so, he landed an acca with astoundingly large odds of 25,091/1, making many punters exceedingly happy and one or two exceptionally rich, whilst all but bankrupting at least one bookmaker.
|Cumberland Lodge Stakes
|Wall Street II
|Racial Diadem Stakes
|Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
|Mark of Esteem
|Tote Festival Handicap
|Rosemary Rated Stakes
|Blue Seal Conditions Stakes
|Gordon Carter Handicap
It was a Saturday, the Festival of British Racing as it was then known, with the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes as the feature race (this is now a key race in an evolved meeting, British Champions Day). The hugely popular Dettori had won that particular contest previously, in 1990, on Markofdistinction, but – now aged 25 – he was entering the peak years of his career as a jockey and had won the title of Champion Jockey in both 1994 and 1995.
The Milan-born ace had a ride in every race on the card that day, which was not uncommon, but the calibre of the card meant probably the best he would have hoped for was to pick up a winner or two. He may have understated things when he said, on the morning of the race, “I could have an each-way chance in the first, and I may win the third,” and we would say that at least three or four of his rides had decent claims. Nobody expected what followed though, even though at least one punter backed it, scooping a very cool £550,000!
What Were Dettori’s Seven Rides at Ascot?
No doubt the seven horses that made them rich are seared in the memory of any punters who backed the Dettori acca. For the rest of us, here’s a recap:
14.00 Cumberland Lodge Stakes – Wall Street II at 2/1
Dettori had fancied his chances of going close in the opener and his three year old mount, Wall Street II, was actually sent off as favourite. He made all and held on under pressure from 4/1 shot Salmon Ladder who couldn’t quite find the pace needed to get closer than the half a length he went down by.
14.35 Racial Diadem Stakes – Diffident at 12/1
French horse Diffident was sent off at odds of 12/1 in a race the 15/8 favourite, Lucayan Prince, was expected to win. Frankie put in a fine ride, switching right with a furlong to go, finding room and driving the horse home to edge the favourite by just a short head.
15.20 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – Mark of Esteem at 100/30
The Group 1 feature was up next, with a little momentum building around Frankie, who rode the well fancied Mark of Esteem. Ashkalani was the 9/4 favourite, with Bosra Sham also priced at 100/30 but Dettori saw his charge come home by one and a quarter lengths from the latter after a nice hold-up ride.
15.55 Tote Festival Handicap – Decorated Hero at 7/1
Decorated Hero was not especially fancied in the next but when he romped to a three and a half-length success legendary BBC commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan was unable to hide his excitement declaring, “He’s done it again”. At this point, someone at the Beeb HQ made a superb decision and decided to extend the live coverage of Ascot for the next three races if the charismatic Italian kept winning.
16.30 Rosemary Rated Stakes – Fatefully at 7/4
With excitement really building now, Fatefully was backed in to 7/4 favouritism and things were looking good as he took the lead with just over a furlong to go. Several horses were in contention but it was 25/1 shot Abeyr who got closest… but couldn’t quite do enough, missing out by a neck. Frankie had five from five.
17.00 Blue Seal Conditions Stakes – Lochangel at 5/4
The penultimate race of the day saw Dettori on board Lochangel, who was making just his second appearance at a racecourse. People were well and truly on the Frankie bandwagon now and so the relatively unheralded chestnut was backed in to joint-favouritism with Corsini. The master horseman once again led from the front and responded to being shaken up a furlong out to make it six in a row, seeing off the fellow principle by three quarters of a length.
17.35 Gordon Carter Handicap – Fujiyama Crest at 2/1
The bookies were in trouble now and they had suffered a very bad day. But they were confident of landing a big win and recovering a lot of their losses in the last race because Dettori’s horse, Fujiyama Crest, was not fancied at all. He began the day ranked a 12/1 shot, with no real interest from punters or the media and even his trainer thought Dettori would struggle, saying, “I thought Frankie would be absolutely knackered and this old bugger takes a bit of riding over two miles. As he left the paddock Frankie turned to me and said, ‘if this gets beaten, it’s your fault not mine because I am red hot’.”
Whilst the Italian was relaxed, bookies were most certainly not but almost all were prepared to take Fujiyama Crest on. Throughout the afternoon bookies had forced down the prices on some of Dettori’s rides in order to reduce winnings for those who had opted to take the Starting Price. However, many bookies just didn’t think Fujiyama Crest could win and so as punters were forcing his odds lower they were happy to keep on taking more and more genuine bets. From the bookies’ perspective, laying a 12/1 shot at 10/1, 8/1, 6/1, 4/1 and all the way in to 2/1 as the favourite was not only a brilliant bet, but also offered them a real chance to turn the day around, at least to a degree.
As we now know, things didn’t work out like that and a bookie bashing turned into a total rout. Fujiyama Crest more or less led from start to finish and despite 9/1 shot Northern Fleet running on well and being with him most of the way, the unfancied Irish four year old held on and won by a neck. That would be one of the gelding’s biggest wins and though he didn’t have a great career, he retired into a much nicer life – as a pet for Frankie and his family!
How Big a Deal Was the Magnificent Seven?
When Lanfranco Dettori, to use the name his Nonna might have done, steered Lochangel to success in the penultimate race, he equalled the records of Alec Russell and Gordon Richards by landing six races on the same card. Sir Gordon Richards, as he became, had won every race at Chepstow in 1933 and astonishingly that was part of a run of 12 consecutive wins spaced out over three days. Richards won 26 Champion Jockey titles and is considered by many to be the greatest of all time. But Frankie surpassed him.
The official Ascot website summed it up best when they say, “All sports have their high points, such as Brian Lara’s 400 not out, Martina Navratilova’s six successive Wimbledon titles or Pele’s 127 goals in a year and in racing we also have one in that exclusive collection – The Magnificent Seven.” The Independent made a similar point about the impact of what Dettori had done by comparing it to “Tiger Woods, say, shooting 18 consecutive birdies”. Of course, that has never been done.
However, startling as the Magnificent Seven was, it is not the only time such a feat has been achieved. In 2012, Richard Hughes also won seven races on a card, at Windsor. It has to be said, though, that Hughes’ seven is decidedly less magnificent as they came from eight races and he was riding the favourite in seven of those eight races.
His longest odds win was 7/1 (the only non-favourite of his eight rides) and five of the others were priced at odds of 5/2 or less. The combined odds of Hughes’ seven winners, even if were ignore the race he didn’t win, was “only” just over 10,000/1, which further demonstrates just how special Dettori’s feat was.
Given just how competitive the races were at Ascot on that Fateful (see what we did there or have you forgotten race five already?!) day, we may never see an accomplishment like it again. But have we already seen it bettered? Has anyone ever won eight races on the same card?
Well, sorry to Mr Dettori but yes, yes we have. And, not just once. Amazingly, Brazilian great, Joao Moreira, has won eight races on the same card not once, not twice, but three times! And, in fact, according to some reports US jockey, Eddie Castro, won nine races on a Florida card in 2005. There appears to be some doubt about that though and, moreover, the standard of racing was relatively low.
But what of Curitiba-born Moreira? He reportedly won eight races in a day in Brazil and also, in 2013, eight from nine at Kranji Racecourse in Singapore. Following his latest eight-win haul, which took place at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong, in March 2017, the Brazilian said, talking of his past feats, “But I think it is even harder to do in Hong Kong”.
His winners were Easy Touch, Dashing Dart, Mr Stunning, Victor Emperor, Cool And Neat, Beat The Clock, Mighty Maverick and Prawn Baba. Whilst there is no doubting his was a brilliant achievement, it should be noticed that those eight wins came on a bumper 11-race card, with Moreira having 10 rides.
The wins came at odds of 2/1, 5/2, 4/5, 5/1, 5/1, 10/11, 6/1 and 2/1. Obviously eight from 11, or even 10, is far easier than a straight seven from seven but even looking at the odds of those winners we can see they would have equated to 27,278/1. Whilst that is a higher accumulator win than the Magnificent Seven, given the competitiveness of the two cards and the fact that Frankie’s was a perfect seven, we think it is clear which should be considered to be the greater sporting achievement.
Winners & Losers
There were many, many big winners on the 28th September, 1996, with Dettori himself perhaps the biggest of the lot. His profile was already huge due to his Champion Jockey crowns and personable nature but the Magnificent Seven took him to a whole new level. Both inside the sport, to a wider audience and commercially it made him a superstar.
We should not forget the trainers either. Saeed bin Suror landed a four-timer that day, with Sir Michael Stoute the man responsible for saddling the horse that had the ultimate responsibility in the last race.
Fujiyama Crest’s narrow victory, when, just maybe, the crowd and punters willed him to the post, made a lot of people rich too. Darren Yates was the biggest known single winner, a man who regularly backed Dettori despite his wife’s protestations. He placed a bet of £67.58 that combined all of Dettori’s mounts before popping off to play football. When the struggling joiner finished playing he discovered that four wins were in the bag and just an hour or so later he would scoop over half a million pounds.
There are countless similar stories, including many agonising ones of punters who made combination bets that excluded the seven-fold accumulator, or who backed singles but not the acca, or who tore up written out betting slips after deciding against making the bet. All of these and many more are recounted in the excellent book Magnificent Seven: How Frankie Dettori Achieved the Impossible by Graham Sharpe.
Various big wins and many small ones are thought to have cost the betting industry £40m and according to Sharpe, Betfred owner Fred Done sent a message to all of his shops stating, “Reward, dead or alive: good-looking Italian kid, last seen in Ascot area.” But whilst giants, such as Betfred, could cope with the impact of that afternoon at Ascot, for other losers, things were much less straightforward.
Many bookies lost huge sums but the most famous story revolves around Gary Wiltshire. Working that day at Ascot he just did not believe that the last horse of the seven could possibly win. He was offering the biggest odds arounds, shouting “9-4 Fujiyama! And 9-4 me for the Job Centre!” He would later tell journalists that, “The odds were miles wrong. I was laying 2-1 about a horse I made a 10-1 shot.” A great bet, until the 10/1 shot wins.
When the dust settled he was facing ruin, with debts approaching £1m. He sold just about everything he owned, took on extra jobs and worked every horse and dog meeting he could. Much as many punters might not have any sympathy for a bookie, he has to be respected for eventually repaying all the money he owed at a time when bets were not legally recoverable. So, maybe just this once we should have a little sympathy!