Derby success would be the highlight of showman Dettori's farewell tour

Racegoers are pictured in front of a mural of jockey Frankie Dettori as they arrive for the opening day of The Derby Festival, whose showpiece is Saturday's Betfred Derby.
Racegoers are pictured in front of a mural of jockey Frankie Dettori as they arrive for the opening day of The Derby Festival, whose showpiece is Saturday's Betfred Derby (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)

By James Toney at Epsom

Hold onto your top hats because the biggest cheer of Frankie Dettori's long goodbye could well come this weekend.

Dettori's farewell tour has more stops than Frank Sinatra's, like Ol' Blue Eyes he's doing it 'my way', unlike him he won't be changing his mind about calling it quits.

At Royal Ascot this month - where he has won 73 times, behind only the legendary Lester Piggott - they are already stringing out the bunting for what promises to be a great Dettori love-in. Tears are guaranteed, Dettori surely holding the record as a man who has blubbed on national TV more than anyone else.

Every major meeting is framed as Frankie's last, with Qipco Champions Day and the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita where he'll face the final curtain later this year.

Until then fans are seizing every chance to say 'grazie mille' to racing's box office greatest showman, backing him with hearts, if not always heads, in the hope of one final flying dismount.

However, a Derby win at the oldest race of them all, a race Dettori loves more than any other, would be a Hollywood final chapter for a jockey who has long transcended his sport and will leave a void in racing not easy to fill.

"The Derby isn't just my dream, it's the dream of every jockey on the planet - it's the one they all want to win because it's the best race in the world," said Dettori, who gave a glimpse of the sort of emotion a Derby win would create with his 1000 Guineas triumph at Newmarket last month.

"It would be amazing to win it one last time in my last ride, what I'm trying to do is enjoy the experience, take in every moment of this last year.

"There are obviously mixed feelings, like the end of an era, and Epsom has been a very special place for me, a real stomping ground for winners. Next year is going to be very different but I'll be excited to be watching, I'll never forget what this race has given me."

For those who like to plot potential Derby winners from months out, it's fair to say Arrest - trained by John and Thady Gosden - would have made few long lists, let alone short lists.

Sired by the legendary Frankel - and racing in the pink and green silks of Juddmonte that his father made famous - Arrest's four race two-year-old season showed some promise, narrowly beaten by fellow Derby entry Dubai Mile in a first Group 1 race in France.

But the manner of his recent win at Chester was eye-catching, meaning there is more than just sentiment about his status in the betting behind Aidan O'Brien's Auguste Rodin and Charlie Appleby's Military Order in Saturday's £1.5 million showpiece.

"I never thought I'd get a chance like this in the Derby again," added Dettori, an ambassador for World Pool. "He's really full of himself this horse and he's not done anything wrong.

"Every gallop he's improving and improving and he just filled his frame over the winter, he's a totally different horse to one I first rode at Sandown last summer. It's the Derby, anything can happen, but this one feels wide open. You want a chance and I think I've got that."

The 'Frankie Factor' tends to mean Dettori's rides in this race are a little shorter in the betting market than perhaps they should be, especially when you consider he's won just twice from 27 starts.

Dettori has claimed five Coronation Cups and five Oaks in the Derby Festival but only triumphed in the big one with Authorized in 2007 and the brilliant Golden Horn eight years later.

It's remarkable to think Piggott had a 25% win rate from his 36 starts in this most demanding of races, where winners need an often elusive cocktail of speed and stamina.

Derby winners go through the gears and conserve energy in the opening stages, a jockey needs to keep their charge relaxed before the rollercoastering course plummets downhill around Tattenham Corner towards the thundering finish.

All too often horses that look bombproof on paper, simply implode at Epsom, as Dettori knows all too well.

"I'm just as excited as I was the first time I rode here, though I'm trying not to think that this will be the last time," added Dettori.

"There is no place quite like Epsom - everything about it is different. It's atmosphere, the track, the history, it brings you out in goosebumps just thinking about Derby day and how special it is.

“There are no false results or lucky winners at Epsom. Whoever wins, wins because they're the best. That’s why it has stood the test of time as the truest examination in our sport.

“I'd been in 14 Derbys before Authorized won my first and I don't think I really enjoyed the moment enough, when Golden Horn won I just felt like jelly.

"There are so many great races around the world but for me this will always be the one, when the season starts you just want to get here with a chance.

"A Derby horse doesn’t fall out of the sky, it takes breeding, training and luck, I've not always had the greatest luck but those two wins, whatever happens in my career those days will be the most special."

Dettori gave a glimpse of scenes that could follow as he claimed his sixth Coronation Cup on Emily Upjohn, 12 months after she stumbled out the stalls and still only lost by a fraction in the Oaks.

He then followed up with a seventh career win in the Oaks, Soul Sister roared to the rafters on the Surrey Downs.

And it could be the most special day is still to come - and they'll be cheers and tears guaranteed.