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Frankie Dettori relives Newmarket plane crash 20 years on as he returns to the saddle

The Independent logo The Independent 02/06/2020 Alex Pattle
Frankie Dettori wearing a hat © Provided by The Independent

Italian jockey Frankie Dettori returns to the saddle at Kempton today, 20 years and one day after surviving the Newmarket plane crash that killed pilot Patrick Mackey.

Dettori, 49, will make his first ride of the season – the start of which was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic – on favourite Galsworthy.

The race marks the beginning of Dettori’s 33rd turf season, and the Italian has been fortunate to enjoy such a long career after his colleague and future agent Ray Cochrane saved his life on 1 June 2000.

Cochrane, who sustained minor burns in the crash as the plane left Newmarket race course in Suffolk, pulled Dettori from the wreckage through the luggage compartment. Dettori fractured his right ankle and damaged a thumb in the incident.

Speaking to the Daily Mail this week, Dettori said: “I had sent Ray the picture of me and him in hospital last week. He must have only seen it last night. He rang and said: ‘What a mess we were.’

a person holding a baseball bat on a field: Dettori returns at Kempton this afternoon (EPA) © Provided by The Independent Dettori returns at Kempton this afternoon (EPA)

“We never really spoke about it and we don’t have to. It was beyond scary. It was such a bad experience and it will never leave you.

“Racing has started again, Ray’s quit and it’s the 20th anniversary of the crash. It all just hit me last night and when I thought about it I got a bit frightened.”

“My mum sent me a text saying despite everything that is going on you have to look at the positive that you are still alive.”

At 49, Dettori has said he will continue to ride as long as he is physically able to, adding that the coronavirus-enforced lockdown has only motivated him to get back on the saddle and race for as long as he can.

He also said he has been training with a face mask on, in order to prepare for this week’s racing.

“We have to race wearing one, so I thought I had better get used to it,” he said. ”It does restrict the breathing a bit, but it is something we have to do.”

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