Frankie Dettori on his new autobiography, Leap Of Faith

Virgin Radio

26 Oct 2021, 11:20

Frankie Dettori with Gaby Roslin and Ricky Wilson at Virgin Radio

Frankie Dettori with Gaby Roslin and Ricky Wilson at Virgin Radio

The world class jockey joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about his latest autobiography, his upcoming documentary, and the time his dog ran away and ended up being looked after by the Queen.

Frankie’s autobiography, Leap Of Faith, is out this Thursday (28th October). He told Gaby Roslin and Ricky Wilson, who are in for Chris: “I did my last book in 2006 and a lot of things have happened in my life, this last 15 years!”

One of the subjects the book deals with is the drugs ban that nearly made him quit the sport. Frankie said: “I guess, now that I’m 50, I’m not ashamed to say the things that I’ve done wrong, the experiences that have passed through my life, so I put it all in there, and there’s a lot of things in the book that people can relate to, my childhood, I had tough parents, and the mistakes that I made. 

“My dad kicked me out of the house when I was 14. It wasn’t my choice. And you have to adapt. I came to a foreign country but I couldn’t speak any English. Obviously the culture, the weather, the food, it was tough, but when you’re by yourself you have to grow up quick, and it was difficult, you know, I was a foreigner, I was bullied. But you have to keep your head down, and something inside you comes out and makes you strong.”

Frankie is one of the most decorated sportsmen of all time, having won over 3000 races, including all seven races on a single day at Ascot Racecourse - his Magnificent Seven. In the book, the jockey writes about his love for the sport that he continues to dominate to this day. He told Gaby and Ricky: “I’m the sort of person that, I never look behind, I look forward. I’ve got a house full of trophies but, to me, they are just an object. Okay, I can go back and remember the things that I’ve done but I always try to look forward to the next one. 

“I’m very lucky. I get up in the morning, and I do what I love. I ride this beautiful creature. I go 40 miles an hour, competing with other people, and I’ve got crowds shouting my name. What do you want in life! And also I get paid as well! I’m very lucky, I’m blessed. That’s what keeps me going. I don’t want to let go!” 

In Leap Of Faith, Frankie also recalls when he almost died when a plane he was on nose-dived just after taking off from Newmarket Racecourse, killing pilot Patrick Mackey. “For many years, I tried to put it in the back of my mind,” he said. “I mean it was a trauma, I lost my pilot, I nearly died twice. I nearly died when we crashed, and then if it wasn’t for my good friend Ray Cochrane, who dragged me out of the wreckage, and the plane exploded. So, I was lucky twice.

"When you go through trauma like that in life, you try to put it in the back of your head, because it’s hard to deal with. But, you know, it’s been 20 years now and it’s still there, so when I was writing the book, I remembered the passage and the trauma, the experience in the past. Even to me, reliving it was quite difficult, but I put it in the book as best I could, and I’m lucky that I’m still here.”

There are also lighter moments in the book, such as the time his dog ran away and ended up as the guest of a rather important person. Frankie explained: “I won a big race where I lived, so I invented a bunch of people round to have a party in my garden, and I left everything open and my sausage dog ran away, she went hunting in the fields, and the Queen’s manager, who lived in the next village, found the dog on the street and he collected her.”

When phoning to arrange to fetch the runaway dog, Frankie discovered that the Queen’s manager was on his way to pick up Her Majesty at Sandringham, as she was going to Newmarket to watch some of her horses gallop, and that Frankie would be able to collect later that evening and “say hello to the Queen”. The jockey told Gaby and Ricky: “So, I opened the kitchen window. My wife was feeding the horses outside, and I said, ‘Honey, they’ve found the dog’, she said, ‘Who’s got her?’, I said, ‘The Queen’s got her!’”

So, later that day, Frankie took his daughter with him to collect the dog and meet Her Royal Highness. “The Queen was there and she was immaculate and great, and we had a little chit-chat,” he said. “They let the dog out of the kitchen, and she ran straight to me, and the dog weed on the Persian carpet! It was a truly embarrassing moment, and I got ushered out of the door very gently, and that was it!” 

Arriving shortly after Frankie's new book is the documentary Dettori, which tells his story. It's coming to selected cinemas and on Blu-ray/DVD/Download from 15th November. “This pandemic kind of confuses things,” Frankie said. “We wanted to do a serial about racing and stuff, but unfortunately we had to narrow it down to what has been my journey, my life, and it’s quite embarrassing when you watch on the big screen, all the mistakes that I’ve done!

“I hope people enjoy it, but it’s been a rollercoaster and it’s been a very colourful life.”

At the end of the interview, before he left the studio, the 50-year-old champion star jockey took issue with Ricky Wilson for writing a song called Ruby, which is of course the first name of former Jockey, Ruby Walsh!

“I’m cross with Ricky, right. He’s written a song about Ruby, what about Frankie?!” he joked.

Leap Of Faith is out this Thursday, 28th October. Dettori is coming to selected cinemas and on Blu-ray/DVD/download from 15th November.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.