Like any sport, horse racing has its heroes. Undoubtedly, in flat racing, it’s the legendary Frankie Dettori who captures most of the headlines. The Top Rider for Royal Ascot 2019, Detorri is in the enviable position of being able to cut back on his rides, opting to choose quality over quantity.

Thankfully, Dettori is also a genuinely lovely guy. And he is the subject of one of the more positive horse racing stories to come out over the past few days. That is because Frankie Dettori pitched up to ride at Killarney Racecourse (Ireland) on Wednesday night.

The Italian jockey had never visited the track before. But, on this occasion, he rode into town for four rides. He left with a couple of close seconds but no winners, much to the disappointment of the bumper crowd in attendance. Despite that, the night was as a huge success for the track. So hats off to the organisers for making it happen.

Normally we see Dettori head over to Ireland for the big meetings at tracks such as The Curragh and Leopardstown. And because of his schedule, we don’t generally get to see him anywhere else. So getting him to the track in County Kerry was a real coup, providing his fans with a day they will never forget.

Dettori didn’t come to ride for one of his retained owners or trainers. He came to ride because he was asked to by the track. One of the biggest personalities in the game, when news spread that he would be riding at the course, tickets flew out the door. The course saw a bumper attendance figure for their Wednesday evening fixture.

Dettori Race Results

The fairy tale of the night would have been a winner for Dettori followed by one of his trademark flying dismounts. However, it wasn’t to be. His first race was on Dermot Weld’s ‘Time Tunnel’ in the Irish EBF Maiden. Things were looking good as Dettori led from the off. But he was pipped to the post by jockey Tom Madden. He managed a late surge on Jessica Harrington‘s ‘Tauran Shaman’ who won by half a length.

Race two for Dettori didn’t fare any better. He had to settle for fourth on Dermot Weld’s ‘Mujid’ in the Sauternes Cup. That was won by Aidan O’Brien’s Turnberry Isle, the 2/1 favourite. A photo finish was required for his third race. It was the highlight of the evening, with Dettori on trainer Fozzy Stack’s ‘Lady Wannabe’.

Lady Wannabe kicked clear with a furlong to run and it was only in the dying strides she was joined on the line by the Ger Lyons-trained 5-2 favourite Viadera. Unfortunately, Dettori came out on the wrong side of the photo finish and was beaten a short head.

It was a night when the results just didn’t go his way. For his fourth and final race, he teamed up with his old colleague Johnny Murtagh. Onboard Finding Nero, it was just not meant to be as he faded out of the finish close to home.

Overall, he was beaten by narrow margins on two of his rides where he finished second with the other two finishing down the field.

The Future For Small Courses

It was not have been the dream night that his fans were hoping for. However, it is a sign of what racecourses need to do if they are to increase attendances. Attracting people to the courses, to watch live racing, has never been more important.

One of the biggest criticisms of racing is that the star attractions are not marketed enough properly. Killarney reached out to Dettori and got him to agree to ride at their meeting. They then marketed this as a big event and people came out specifically because he was riding there. It would be interesting to ask those who attended the meeting whether or not they would have attended without Dettori on board.

With cuts to prize money and betting shops closing, racing needs to think outside of the box if it is to move forward. An event like this from Killarney Racecourse shows what can be achieved if the right people are involved and the right marketing plan is put in place.

Next time a big jockey, trainer or even horse turns up at an unusual hunting ground it would be great to see the racecourse make a big deal out of it. It brings in new people who have a great time. They tell their friends and then even more people go. Attendance goes up and spend goes up. Racecourses make more money and that can go back into the course to improve facilities.

Better facilities bring better races. That attracts a higher caliber of entry, which, in turn, ensures higher attendance figures. Easy!