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Frankie The Autobiography of Frankie Dettori
by Lanfranco Dettori and Jonathan Powell
Harper Collins Publishers, 2004, 422 pages hardcover

To followers of Thoroughbred racing, Frankie Dettori is a household name. The flamboyant Italian contract rider for Godolphin Racing travels the world to ride in rich Group 1 events, celebrating each win with his trademark flying dismount in the winner's circle. In his new autobiography, Dettori looks back at the early years in Italy, his difficult relationship with his famous jockey father Gianfranco, and the struggle to follow in his footsteps.

He recalls the loneliness of arriving in England at the age of 14 to be a stable lad and tells of the fiery relationship with trainer Luca Cumani, which came to a bitter end when Cumani fired him. It took a year for Cumani to forgive the young Dettori, letting him ride Barathea in the 1994 Breeders' Cup Mile. It was in the Churchill Downs winner's circle aboard Barathea that Dettori unleashed the flying dismount in public for the first time. American racing fans enjoyed Dettori's tribute to Angel Cordero, but European racing commentators and fans did not like the dismount, calling for him to join the circus. Ironically, Dettori's mother was a trapeze artist in an Italian circus.

Dettori's travels were originally mapped out by his father and by trainer Luca Cumani, sending him away from his native Italy to England, France, and California to learn the art of race riding. His time as an exercise rider during the winters in Southern California taught him the American style of riding, the familiar aerodynamic crouch, and the art of judging pace, developing the jockey's "clock in the head". He explains that he has developed a modified riding style, starting in an upright European style during the early stages of a race and then switching to the American crouch for the stretch run.

As a relatively unknown jockey, trainer John Gosden introduced him to Sheikh Mohammed and the rest is history. Dettori speaks fondly of the many horses who helped him achieve fame and respect: Cape Verdi, Daylami, Fantastic Light, and the ill-fated Dubai Millennium. Along with these Group 1 winners owned by the powerful Godolphin operation, he also speaks of Fujiyama Crest, the horse who completed his unprecedented sweep of all seven races one afternoon at Ascot in 1996. When the horse was retired, Dettori purchased the horse privately.

In a particularly moving chapter, Dettori remembers the day he cheated death in a plane crash thanks to a dramatic rescue by fellow jockey Ray Cochrane and how his life has changed since that day for he and his family, wife Catherine and five young children. Cochrane never fully recovered enough from his injuries in the crash to return to riding, so Dettori hired him to be his agent.

Dettori's autobiography is an entertaining, informative look into the life and times of a world class jockey. Any fan of racing will enjoy reading his story, a story which continues to be written today, as Frankie continues to rack up Group 1 wins around the globe.

Frankie has a list price of $35.00 and is available from Amazon.com for $23.10 in hardcover and will be available in May in paperback.

Rating:     5/5

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