Frankie Dettori’s ‘biggest stroke of luck’ came after getting busted for cocaine following Arsenal match, says ex-boss
THE ‘biggest stroke of luck’ in Frankie Dettori’s career came after he was busted for cocaine following an Arsenal match, according to his former boss.
Legendary trainer Luca Cumani has opened up on his years spent turning a cheeky young Dettori into the world’s most famous jockey.
Cumani, father of ITV Racing presenter Francesca, took a teenage Dettori under his wing at his Newmarket yard and watched as he exploded into a global superstar.
But in a revealing new detail of the jockey’s life, he has revealed how Dettori’s cocaine shame in 1993 actually proved the biggest blessing in disguise.
It was in April that year that Dettori – who had just agreed a £200,000 deal to race in Hong Kong – went to Wembley to see Arsenal beat Sheffield Wednesday in the Coca-Cola Cup Final.
In his autobiography Leap Of Faith, Dettori revealed how he ‘scored some speed’ from a man in a service station loo en route to the game.
He wrote that he ‘got even more’ at the football and bought some again in the toilet of a nightclub near Oxford Street.
It was outside in an alley that police swooped, Dettori recalled, arresting him before letting him go under caution.
Cumani says had that not happened then Dettori would have gone to Hong Kong, which back then was nowhere near the racing powerhouse it is now.
The master trainer, 74, told OLBG: “He had been riding for a year or two as my number one jockey and in those days there was no all-weather in the winter, so after the November handicap jockeys would disappear off the face of the earth.
“They would go on holiday, go and ride in America, Australia, Hong Kong, wherever.
“I remember about January or February I was getting calls from the press asking if it was true that Frankie had signed to race in Hong Kong.
“It took me totally by surprise, I said I couldn’t believe it and said he wouldn’t be doing something like that at all.
“But it carried on, the press ringing up all the time and I kept saying it wasn’t true but I couldn’t get hold of him. We didn’t have mobile phones, I didn’t know where he was.
“Come the middle of February, there is a knock on my door and Frankie walks in with a big grin, we hug, we go and sit down and he says, ‘I am going to ride in Hong Kong’.
“I felt the blood just drain from my body, completely. I couldn’t believe it.
“Here was this great talent, who had everything in front of him, being a big-name jockey in Europe and throughout the world in time, was going off to go and ride in what – at the time – was a bit of a backwater racing nation, Hong Kong.
“I tried to dissuade him, we spoke for hours and hours and he was determined and said he was going, and then I lost my cool.
“I said to him, ‘If you don’t change your mind then I will never speak to you again’.
“I was so angry. So we left on very bad terms.
“But then, Frankie has always been a very lucky person.
“He was lucky to come to England and then he went to an Arsenal game, because he was an Arsenal fan, with some friends and luck – or bad luck would have it – his car got stopped by the police and they found a minute amount of cocaine in the car.
“It hit the news and that got to Hong Kong, and they cancelled his contract straight away.
“That was the biggest stroke of luck for Frankie. If he had gone to Hong Kong then we would never have known Frankie as we do now.”
Cumani and Dettori soon parted ways and the jockey signed for Godolphin, the racing operation run by Sheikh Mohammed, the Ruler of Dubai, until a cocaine positive saw that job ended.
Since then he has been with John Gosden, although even that special relationship had a temporary break-up last year.
Dettori, now 52, will race for the final time in Britain later this month.
He will headline a star-studded Champions Day at Ascot on October 21 before a rumoured stint on I’m A Celeb.
Once he gives up for good dad-of-five Dettori intends to travel the world with wife Catherine and rent out his massive Newmarket mansion for £15,000 a month.
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