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Frankie: The autobiography of Frankie Dettori

Release date: 20th September, 2004
Publisher: Collins Willow

List Price: 18.99
Our Price: 11.39
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Frankie: The autobiography of Frankie Dettori price: £11.39 (saving £7.60 on rrp)

If infectious enthusiasm and an aptitude for hard work are two essential ingredients in the mixture marked 'sporting success', it is little wonder that the diminutive Frankie Dettori has become one of the most successful and perhaps the highest profile jockey in the land.

Dettori is one of those sportsmen who, because they achieve so much at a relatively early age, seem to have been around for years, yet he is not 34 until December and, as he regularly points out in this ambitious autobiography, Lester Piggot was still riding in his late 50's. Furthermore, once the reader has finished the first chapter, it is evident that Frankie's riding career will continue for as long as he can remain fit - there is little chance he will be unenthused.

At five pages, this autobiography's opening chapter is not the longest, but it is certainly one of the most dramatic. It begins in June 2000 with Frankie and his co-jockey Ray Cochrane seated in the rear of a small Piper Seneca as it endeavoured to claw its way into the wet and windy sky. Barely 100 feet off the ground, the plane suddenly careered back towards terra firma; Dettori was convinced he was about to die, but incredibly, both he and Cochrane survived an horrendous crash, although it did account for the life of the pilot, Patrick Mackey. Over four years later, the photographs of the crash at Newmarket leave the reader shaking his head in disbelief - how could anyone have survived that?

Afterwards, Dettori understandably toyed with the idea of "jumping off the racing treadmill" and packing it all in. Ultimately though, he believed God saved him which convinced him to "make the most of [life] second time around."

Frankie Dettori was born the son of a famous Italian jockey in Milan in 1970. Since his first winning ride in the UK on Lizzy Hare at Goodwood in 1987, he has been champion jockey twice (1994 and 1995) and, at the time of writing, is odds-on to claim that title again this season.

His father sent him to England in July 1985 to work under the tutelage of Luca Cumani, a trainer with whom he enjoyed a stormy relationship. Dettori readily admits to crying himself to sleep during his early days in a foreign land - little wonder when his hosts served him ravioli straight from a Heinz tin!

The book has been ghost written by Jonathan Powell, part of the BBC's racing team for 23 years, and great credit is due for its honesty - from Dettori's burgeoning gambling habit to possession of cocaine to nicking a table-full of crockery and only just escaping from a pair of Dobermans. Throughout, the harsh realities of life as a professional jockey are interspersed with enough good humour to make this a thoroughly enjoyable read.

By the time Frankie "kissed and made up" with Cumani, Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed had begun to take an interest in Dettori's career. This was to lead ultimately to the rider's hugely successful partnership with the Godolfin stable. Here too is the detail of that remarkable day (28th September 1996) when Frankie went through the card at Ascot, winning all seven races, thankful he didn't know there was £40m riding on the last race.

Incredibly, Dettori has not yet won the Derby, a lifelong ambition; anyone in any doubt that he eventually will should read the first chapter again.

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