There’s almost too much to shoehorn into this infectiously admiring profile of jockey Frankie Dettori, he of the spring-heeled vault out of the saddle in the winners’ enclosure. By any measure he has had an extraordinary career: sent to England as a kid by his authoritarian father (also a top jockey), a star turn as an apprentice, a hot streak as a young rider, two humiliating drug scandals, a plane crash in which the pilot was killed, a near-breakdown after being edged out of his elite stable, a stream of record-breaking achievements, and one triumphant comeback after another.
But there’s considerably more to this than a greatest-hits package. Dettori himself is a documentarian’s dream: he appears to hold nothing back, his charisma bounces off all four sides of the screen and he bursts into tears at least four times during the interviews. Then there are the supporting characters, led by Dettori padre – with whom Frankie has, shall we say, a somewhat tumultuous relationship. (I lost count of the number of times they mentioned they had stopped talking to each other or embarked on some torturous feud.) Dettori’s older sister Alessandra, his wife Catherine, and manager Peter Burrell also put in highly sympathetic appearances – although the key line would appear to come from trainer John Gosden, who suggests after Dettori’s seven-win clean sweep at Ascot in 1996: “I don’t think it propelled him to be any more full of himself than he already was.”
Still, Dettori comes across as a highly likable character, with a preternatural confidence that is amazingly engaging. It also is to the film’s advantage that so many of his activities in the hothouse world of racing have been captured on film – we even see some alarming footage of his plane crash. Director Anthony Wonke picks a beautifully clear path through the blizzard of life events and intra-family strife; it can’t have been easy.