In Monday’s Daily Mail Frankie Dettori described how he narrowly escaped death in a plane crash. 

In the third and final chapter of his gripping autobiography “Leap Of Faith”, he recalls his fight against a drugs ban to win the second Derby and his remarkable winning streak on Enable (the best horse he ever rode).

Frankie Dettori discusses his journey with Enable in his new autobiography 'Leap Of Faith'

Frankie Dettori talks about his journey with Enable and his new autobiography “Leap Of Faith”

Derby Day. There’s nothing else like it. It’s our Super Bowl, our Wimbledon, our Monaco Grand Prix.

It’s the race I dreamed of winning as a young kid on a pony back in Milan. The Derby is the greatest race in the world and for pretty much all my career I’d ridden it every year, and finally achieved my lifelong ambition of winning it in 2007. This was before everything went to pot.

In late 2012, angered by being passed over time and time again in favour of younger jockeys, I announced that I’d no longer be riding for Sheik Mohammed of Dubai’s Godolphin stables in Newmarket. That coincided with my six-month ban from the sport after I’d taken cocaine at a party and tested positive in a random drugs test.

My drugs ban ended in May 2013, just in time for that year’s Derby, but the question was whether anyone would have me and I realised that the break from Godolphin wasn’t just a one-time thing, done and dusted.

An outfit that is powerful and wealthy controls many people directly or indirectly. There were trainers who weren’t allowed to give me rides and there were trainers who could give me rides but didn’t want to for fear that they would get blowback from Godolphin.

This was not something that anyone said directly. It was a general unspoken threat. It didn’t necessarily come directly from Godolphin. But that’s the influence they had.

People I thought were my close friends snubbed me with lame excuses. I was the forgotten man, the ghost of Derbies past who couldn’t beg, steal or borrow a mount on the biggest day of all.

Finally, I was able to get three rides at Epsom the day before the Derby. It was too foggy to go by helicopter so I went by car and when we finally reached the racecourse, after hitting heavy traffic which sent my stress levels through the roof, we couldn’t get past the long queues for the car park.

Missing my comeback wouldn’t have been a great look. It was already difficult enough to get the rides. At the three-furlong marker, I got out of my car and ran to the rail. Two security guards stopped and insisted that I go through the main entrance. This would have allowed me to be late for the first race.

Dettori recalls being handed a six-month ban after failing a random drugs' test in 2012

Dettori remembers that he was given a six-month ban in 2012 after failing a random drug test.

Almost before I knew it, I’d ducked past them, jumped the rail and was running the last three furlongs. I didn’t look behind to see if they were chasing me and I didn’t care: I wasn’t going to be late. 

Two of the last places, and a fifth place out of eight, were won by those three races. It was hardly the stuff of fairy tales and I realised that the idea that I’d just pick up where I left off was ludicrous.

Six months was by far the longest I’d been out of racing since I began my career almost 25 years previously and I was trying too hard to make things happen. My low mood was obvious to the horses, and the more mistakes that I made, the more confidence I lost, which made it worse for me to ride, and so on.

I was depressed, lethargic and moody. I was a nuisance. I was always moping around, unable to do anything but depress myself. To make matters worse, many people believed that my problem wasn’t that I was trying too hard, but that I was trying to much.

‘Frankie doesn’t care any more,’ they were saying. ‘He’s too rich, too complacent, too in love with being famous.’

They didn’t say it to my face, of course, but I heard it on the grapevine anyway. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon and got the knives out, and kicked me in my backside. 

I was able to go 50 races at one point without winning. Fifty! Even by the law of averages, you’d probably have at least one or two in that time simply by sitting on the horse and pointing it in the right direction.

I finished 2013 with 16 winners, and 2014 wasn’t much better, only yielding 37. I thought about giving up, but John Gosden called me, one of the top trainers in racing and invited me to ride with him at his Clarehaven Stables, Newmarket.

Dettori celebrates as he rides Golden Horn to win the iconic Derby at Epsom back in 2015

Dettori celebrates riding Golden Horn to win Epsom’s iconic Derby in 2015.

John was willing to support me when no one else would. This was my second career. The first was when I was 22 and he’d got me riding for Sheik Mohammed, despite a police caution for possession of cocaine.

Now he’d given me the opportunity I’d been praying for, riding a superstar horse in the shape of Golden Horn, the favourite for that 2015 Derby.

I slept poorly the night before, as I do every night. I used to shy away from the nerves but now I embrace them: I need them to help me perform at my best and the night I get eight hours’ uninterrupted kip before the Derby is the day I hang up my boots for good.

When I went downstairs to make my morning coffee on June 6, I noticed that five of my children had made a banner and draped it over the kitchen window. It said, “Good Luck, DAD.”

Leo was 15 years old at the time, followed by Ella, 14 and Mia, 12 and Tallula, 11 and Rocco, 10. I was old enough to understand what the race meant, so I fought back tears as I said goodbye to each one. My wife Catherine followed me.

The previous year, when I was about to give up, she’d sat me down and given it to me straight. ‘You keep telling me how f***ing good you are,’ she said. ‘Well, now’s the time to show it.’

This was the right moment. I hugged her tight. She’d been there for me through all the ups and downs, and we’d had more of both than the Big Dipper on Blackpool Beach. I couldn’t have done any of this without her and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Epsom is one of the most testing Flat racing tracks on the planet, not least because in the first half mile it rises 150 feet, almost the height of Nelson’s Column. As you’re eased into the stalls it’s like looking up a mountain.

Golden Horn wanted to speed up and take control of the race. I said, “Come here.” I’m in charge, not you.

The legendary jockey did not believe he would ever ride a better horse than Golden Horn

The legendary jockey believed he would ride a better horse than Golden Horn.

I think of the horse like a ball of energy that I must expend along the course. That energy is like a petrol gauge and if it’s a close race I need it to run out exactly on the line: not a stride after, and certainly not a stride before.

I had so many years of experience that it was almost like playing chess. I saw the race not as it was but as it would be in a few seconds’ time. I knew the horses in front of me would go left, and the other would go straight.

I didn’t even know how I knew this: it was tiny pieces of memory stored in my brain which came up just when I needed them.

With only 150 meters to go, it was all done. I knew we would win. In all my years of riding, in all the races I’ve won, it was the best and most exciting moment. More than my Magnificent 7 at Ascot, more that my first Derby, and more than any other moment.

They said I was done. They told me I’d never be the same jockey again. They said I should go to the sunset and let young bucks fight it out.

They were wrong. They were all wrong. Frankie Dettori was a two-time Derby winner. How do you like apples?

I looked down at my breeches. They said L. Dettori. L is my full name Lanfranco. Now L for Lazarus.

Later that year, Golden Horn and I won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the French race which is one of the sport’s greatest events.

A Derby–Arc double isn’t unknown — six horses had done it in the previous 50 years — but it is rare and you need a special horse to pull it off.

Golden Horn was retired from stud at the end of that year. What a horse! It was a privilege to have had the opportunity to ride him that year. ‘I’ll never ride a better horse than that,’ I told John. I was wrong again, and not the first time.

Enable was my 2017 Clarehaven season. She was a reluctant worker, and every ounce of her demeanour suggested she’d rather be back in her stable having a good old nosh on some hay rather than put up with some damn fool Italian jumping around on her back.

Dettori's 2017 season started with riding on a filly called Enable, who was a reluctant worker

Dettori’s 2017 season began by riding on Enable, a female filly. She was a reluctant worker. 

She was a completely different horse at the races. She sat up straight, puffed her chest and curved her neck so that the veins were sticking out. She also chewed at the bit like a boxer entering the ring. She knew this was her stage.

That year we won all three Oaks — Epsom, Irish and Yorkshire — followed by the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and then the Prix in which the lift-off when I finally asked her to go wouldn’t have disgraced a rocket.

It was my fifth Arc and a record for a jockey. It was a great way to do it, and what a horse to do so on. She was a destination horse, one that the crowds came to see, one that put thousands on a gate by her mere presence. They don’t come along very often.

Enable was unable to work for several months the following year due to knee surgery. I saw her three or four days a week.

‘Where are you going?’ Catherine would say.

‘To the yard to see Enable.’


‘No reason. Just to see her.’

You can spend time with her just to chat, enjoy her stardust, and feed her endless amounts of Polo mints. These were more expensive than petrol at the garage. 

Dettori, on his horse Enable, celebrates after winning the 2018 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Dettori celebrates on his horse Enable after winning the 2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

She was fit in time for us to win the Arc again that October of 2018 and the Breeders’ Cup in Kentucky the following month. An Arc and Breeders double. It’s all history. Few have tried, but Enable has succeeded. In 2019, Enable won the King George again, and in 2020, her last season before she went off to stud.

That last King George took place only a few months after the start of the pandemic and as we crossed the line, making Enable the first horse to win the race three times, my screams of ‘I love you!’ echoed round the empty stands at Ascot.

We tried to win the Arc again three months later, Pierre-Charles Boudot riding Waldgeist had defeated us the year before. No horse had ever achieved the treble and only one jockey had — Pat Eddery, on three different mounts between 1985 and 1987 — but she finished sixth and in front of an empty grandstand to boot.

This is not the way it should have ended. Enable deserved the final victory in front a cheering crowd, who cheered her home until the last echoes.

I got up and cuddled her. There’s no horse who can replace what we did together. We’d had an unbelievable journey and I was very grateful for that.

On her last day at Clarehaven before going off to stud she had her picture taken in the colours of her owner Prince Abdullah, the lovely pink, green and white she’d worn so well. I took her on three laps with the whole stable staff to get a standing ovation.

I couldn’t see through my tears. Everyone else was also crying. This is how Enable, a horse, can touch your heart.

Her road was run and though mine isn’t yet I know that one day it will be. My hourglass is being run by the sands the same way she ran through hers. And I know that part my desire to stall her end was to stall mine too.

I dread the day that I have to stop. I’ve woken up every morning for 35 years doing exactly the same thing, going out there, competing, travelling the world, all the ups and downs, people adoring me and hating me.

I’ve been in the fast lane for so long that I’ve become addicted to it. But nothing lasts forever.

Once I stop all this madness, when I step off that treadmill, I’ll just have to readjust: reset myself, reset the treadmill at a different pace. Start a new chapter in your life.

It will be hard, God. It will be scary. But I’ll find a way.


It’s a surreal life, the jockey life, like still being in school.

I’m in the weighing room every day with kids as young as 16, and I’m over 50, and we’re just a big family.

We don’t all love each other all the time — we cross each other, we argue and all that — but overall we get on fine. We travel together, we eat together, we ride together, and when I’m in that bubble I never get old.

The weighing room is our one private space in an arena where we’re otherwise on show the whole time.

There’s endless banter, jokes and card games with piles of cash in the middle, several grand sometimes. ‘Come on, lads, time to saddle up’, and the cries of ‘Just finishing this game!’

Your peg is the one at far end when you are an apprentice. The most senior guys are next to the door because after the door you’re out.

The room was filled with men like Ray Cochrane and Greville Starkey when I first entered it. Now, I’m the one standing by the door, holding onto my fingernails while the young ones try to kick me out.

I see myself as I was many years ago when I look at them: they see me as their future. I am an old man who needs glasses to read the form.

Pat Eddery never wore glasses, even when his vision was worse than his arms.

‘Frankie!’ he’d yell. ‘Read this for me! Where am I drawn?’

I used to laugh at him and call him a blind old bat — and now I’m just the same as he was then.

There’s always one old codger in the room and if you can’t see who it is then it’s you.