With a trail of victories all over the world, Frankie Dettori is a decorated name in the Middle Eastern Equestrian space. He has been instrumental in the victories of GCC countries such as Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE in international championships. Reflecting on a career that boasts more than 3,000 wins, the next chapter in the ace jockey’s career is just beginning. In this op-ed, Frankie highlights his next adventure as he prepares to elevate his journey with the equestrian sport.
As the end of my last year on the circuit draws closer, I hear plenty of “riding off into the sunset” remarks. The truth is, after nearly forty years of horseracing, the final dismount is going to be tough.
Rather than see this as the twilight of my career, I’ve always aimed to bow out on a high and experience another life after racing. Of course, that means spending time with my family and my friends, relaxing, and enjoying good Italian food, but there is still more I want to do to champion equestrian sport.
That’s why the projects I’m looking forward to in my retirement are the ones aimed at bringing the joy of horse riding to more people. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been in the saddle and when I thought about what I wanted to achieve beyond racing, it was making horse riding accessible for everyone, a part of everyday life.
There’s no better place to achieve that ambition than here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with its culture and heritage of equestrianism. I’ve recently become involved in one of Riyadh’s mega projects: the Sports Boulevard, one of the world’s largest urban regeneration and grassroots sports projects. It will transform the makeup of the city with a park stretching from East to West, with over 50 different sports facilities and more than 134km of horse-riding trails.
The Sports Boulevard will be a vital way to build on the Kingdom’s proud equestrian history. I’ve been riding in Saudi Arabia for over thirty years and the level of appreciation for horses here is one I haven’t seen surpassed anywhere else in the world. I’ve loved hearing the stories trainers tell me, passed down from generation to generation, of the importance of Arabian horses to nomadic desert life over more than 6,000 years. Revitalising this legacy for all of Riyadh’s citizens is something that gives me huge excitement.
As an official ambassador to the project, I not only want to inspire a new generation of equestrians but also emphasise all the benefits an active life brings. I’ll be 53 years old at the end of this year, and part of the reason I’ve been able to stay competitive for so long is my love of sports – be it football, running, or just spending time outside. The Sports Boulevard will give incredible new infrastructure and facilities to the city, so that everyone can learn or take part in sports, from cycling, water sports, and skateboarding to my passion for horse riding.
I’ve had the privilege of riding over 3,300 winners in my career, but I’m not quite ready for the sunset yet. The ambition I see from Sports Boulevard to create trails for budding riders of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds is spurring me on towards my next adventure.
Frankie Dettori is one of the world’s most successful jockeys and an official ambassador to the Sports Boulevard Foundation. https://sportsboulevard.sa/en