Down Royal racegoers are in for a rare treat on Friday with Frankie Dettori set to make his first ever appearance at the Lisburn circuit.
The 52-year-old might be preparing to bring his glittering career in the saddle to an end later this year but he has shown absolutely no signs of slowing down, riding a whole host of big-race winners both at home and abroad in 2023 so far.
His farewell tour made an unlikely stop in Hungary last weekend, with Dettori performing his trademark flying dismount twice after riding a double at Kincsem Park in Budapest, and next on his agenda is a first competitive outing in Northern Ireland.
Down Royal’s chief executive Emma Meehan has been working on getting the legendary Italian to the track since the spring and is delighted those efforts have paid off.
She said: “We’ve been trying to get him in before his swansong as it will be the first time he’s ridden in the north of Ireland.
“In April of this year I reached out and we got confirmation that he’d welcome the visit and thankfully the interest from his camp hasn’t waned.
“It’s lovely for punters in the north to have him here at their local track and it’s great for us at Down Royal to have him here as part of our history.”
The first of Dettori’s two mounts at Down Royal is the Matthew Smith-trained No Thanks, who contests the two-and-a-quarter-mile Grant Thornton Ulster Cesarewitch Handicap.
In the following Children’s Heartbeat Trust Handicap he will partner Evening’s Empire for the father-son team of Eddie and Patrick Harty before sitting down for ‘An Evening with Frankie Dettori’ event in one of the track’s suites.
Meehan added: “He’s riding in two races and then after racing from 7.30pm we’re having an event which Kevin O’Ryan and Fran Berry are hosting. They’ll catch up with him about his career and there’ll be an audience, with tickets pre-sold.
“Sales are going well and we’re hoping to get a few more people through the doors as the weather looks like being on our side.
“It will be a great evening and it’s a special day for us. We’re just delighted he could attend.”