He is now a few weeks into his sixth decade, but there is still no rider on earth to rival Frankie Dettori when it comes to racing’s showpiece events. For the third year running, the Italian was officially named the world’s best jockey on Tuesday, a title based on jockeys’ performances in the 100 highest-rated Group One and Grade One races around the globe in 2020, and while Enable, last year’s King George winner, has now been retired to the paddocks, few would bet against him making it four in a row in 2021.
Dettori added another nine Group One winners to his record in 2020, with eight different horses (Stradivarius, who took the Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup, was his only dual winner at the highest level). He also landed the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot for the first time, filling the only gap on his record among the meeting’s Group Ones, and has now passed 260 Group One and Grade One winners in his career.
More than 60 of those top-level winners have arrived during a renaissance in early middle-age which seemed unlikely, to say the least, when Dettori parted company with the Godolphin operation in the autumn of 2012 and then served a six-month ban after testing positive for cocaine.
Dettori’s link-up with John Gosden from the start of the 2015 season has been hugely rewarding for both jockey and trainer, and looks set to continue in 2021 when Stradivarius, now a seven-year-old, and Palace Pier, last year’s St James’s Palace Stakes winner, are both expected to be among his partners on the track.
“It’s a great honour to win for the third year in a row,” Dettori said on Tuesday during the annual Longines World’s Best Racehorse ceremony, which this year took place online. “Who’d have thought at my age I could still do it? It goes without saying that Enable has not just been the best horse but the horse I’ve loved most in my life. We tried to win three Arcs [in both 2019 and 2020] but just couldn’t make it. She managed to win three King Georges, which is a record, though. I miss her a lot but she gave the public so much joy, and helped me win this award.”
Dettori (102 points) finished just in front of Ryan Moore (98), with William Buick (66), top US rider Irad Ortiz jr (64) and Christophe Lemaire (60) next on the list.
Enable, who shared the top prize of world’s best horse with Crystal Ocean and Waldgeist in 2019, was only joint 10th in 2020’s list despite her third win in Ascot’s midsummer showpiece.
Ghaiyyath, who beat Enable in the Eclipse Stakes in July and then added another front-running Group One win in the International Stakes at York, was 4lb clear of the field at the top of the rankings with a rating of 130, while Authentic, who landed the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic, shared second place with Palace Pier on 126. The International Stakes, meanwhile, was officially the best race of 2020.
“It’s a much-deserved award, given what he did this summer,” Charlie Appleby, Ghaiyyath’s trainer, said. “He wore his heart on his sleeve, and for me and the team he brightened this summer up in what we know was a testing season. I’ve been fortunate over the last couple of years to have him over 10 and 12 furlongs and then Blue Point over five furlongs, and both were at their best at the age of five, which is all thanks to Godolphin allowing us to keep them in training, so they can show what they can do as the finished article.”