Frankie Dettori: Cristiano Ronaldo on bench helped legendary jockey make retirement decision

Frankie Dettori pictured at the York Races
Frankie Dettori says he has seen a lot of racecourses but not a lot else, so would now like to travel

Frankie Dettori is taking in a few well-deserved victory laps on his farewell tour to racing but he has not ruled out a retirement U-turn if someone makes him "a stupid offer".

Dettori, 52, raced at Down Royal on Friday for the first and last time having never ridden in Northern Ireland before in his incredible 35-year career.

It has been hard to identify the right time to stop, especially having enjoyed one of his most successful racing summers, but watching Cristiano Ronaldo helped him come to a painful decision.

"I was watching the World Cup last year and a great player like Ronaldo, he was on the bench for Portugal," Dettori said.

"I didn't want to finish my career not getting the good rides so I thought this was the perfect time to stop and leave my legacy at the top.

"Thirty six years as a professional… where has the time gone? I will be 53 in December so I'm not getting any younger and I wanted to find the right balance to stop while still at the top and still good enough to put on a good show.

"I am going to miss it, without a doubt, but I've got five weeks left until my last race at Ascot and I don't want to be sad so I will try to enjoy these last bits of my career and say my goodbyes."

Melbourne Cup 'high on list'

Given some of the highs this year - the two-timer at York's Ebor Festival, the Gold Cup at Ascot, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on the King's Coronation Day - could he be tempted to try and do it all over again in 2024?

"At the moment, 21 October [at Ascot] is my last day in Europe, then it's America for the Breeders Cup, then Melbourne and possibly Hong Kong - but never say never.

"If somebody makes me a stupid offer then I will consider it but at the moment I am sticking to my guns.

"I have never won the Melbourne Cup so that is high on my list and I'm going to give it one last go this year but overall I've done everything and won everything I've wanted to win and I'm pretty satisfied that I left everything I could on the track."

It was quite the coup for Down Royal and CEO Emma Meehan to secure the services of the legendary Italian even at this late stage of his career.

He had two rides, and was placed third on the 5/1 shot No Thanks trained by Matthew Smith in the Ulster Cesarewitch Handicap.

He reckoned his great friend Barney Curley, the legendary trainer, gambler and philanthropist, would have been chuffed he made it to his home sod at last.

"I never been to Down Royal and thought, 'Why not?' People in Northern Ireland, and all over Ireland, are very keen on horse racing and this is my last farewell.

"Barney took me to Enniskillen and Omagh and to the lakes (in Fermanagh) and showed me Northern Ireland a bit - though he never even asked me to come and race here.

"I think up there he will be having a good laugh and give me a pat on the back because he was very proud of his country and I am proud to have known him for so many years.

"He will agree with what I am doing today.

"This was planned in the spring. I'm doing as many racecourses as I can because I like new challenges.

"I like to touch as many people as I can and say my last goodbyes at the end of my career."

Frankie Dettori after winning the Ebor Handicap in York
Frankie Dettori pictured after winning the Ebor Handicap on Absurde at York in August

So if this is definitely it, what next for Dettori? A jockey who transcends his sport and is bursting with a personality that would make him a star turn on the reality TV circuit. Could the jungle or the Strictly ballroom be for him?

"I will find my feet and regroup with my wife, because my five kids have flown the nest, so we will see.

"The house is very empty at the moment, the children have to find their own life but I am very close to them and they are often coming back to the nest.

"I have seen a lot of racecourses but not a lot else of the world so I would like to travel.

"I haven't thought too far ahead, but I know it will be a difficult period when I stop."