Frankie Dettori’s Retirement And What It Means For Flat Racing’s Future

Frankie Dettori’s retirement later this year is set to change flat racing as we know it. So what will be the long term impact of his departure?

That’s the question we explore in this post. To answer that question we enlisted the help of finance expert, Professor Rob Wilson.

The Professor of Economics at Sheffield Business School gives us his expert analysis on the financial impact of Dettori’s retirement on flat racing. Professor Wilson also gives us his opinion on whether it will be possible for the sport to replace Dettori like how tennis was able to replace Roger Federer with stars like Djokovic and more recently youth sensation Carlos Alcaraz.

We started the interview by asking Professor Rob Wilson about the commercial impact of Frankie Dettori’s retirement on the horse racing industry.

There Isn’t A Jockey That Can Replace Dettori

Q. What commercial impact will Frankie Dettori’s retirement have on horse racing?

Rob Wilson (RW): Dettori is an iconic athlete who’s had a following that made people interested in the sport, we’ve had successive retirements from him and he’s kept coming back. Horse racing as a sport has increased in popularity over the last 20 to 25 years, and it’s become increasingly popular over the last 10 years with the major tournaments and race meetings around the UK.

The interesting comparison with Tiger Woods and Roger Federer is that in both those cases, there was an upcoming athlete or group of athletes coming through to pick up the mantle. In tennis you had Djokovic, Nadal and to a lesser extent Andy Murray. With Woods, you go down the list and see Mickleson and Rory McIlroy. The wave of change is not significant.

I’m not an expert in horse racing, but there isn’t a jockey I see that has the same profile and global appeal that he does. So the horse racing industry will be searching for one.

But I think given the scale of popularity in the last decade or so, I don’t think there will be an economic impact of him leaving other than his own wages and prize money.

Take The Good With The Bad With Dettori’s Retirement

Q. With Frankie Dettori, do you have to balance out the benefits he brought the sport in the first place to the downsides of him leaving?

RW: With Frankie Dettori, you also have to balance out the benefits he brought to the sport against and the downsides of him leaving too.

People always become personalities, and they become interesting to watch and interview but ultimately people are there to make money through gambling.

Economic Impact Of Dettori’s Retirement

Q. You don’t think it will impact turnout at the gate and bets from home?

RW: Your regular horse goers who follow the horses he rides on may change their behavior, but generally speaking horse race goers will be going for the thrill of the race and looking to back winners.

It may even level up the playing field a bit. Historically, the best horse trainers want the best jockeys, although it has been a mixed picture in the last few years.

Q. Can you think of an example where a marquee name left a sport, and it did have an economic impact?

RW: Usain Bolt leaving athletics is an example of a retirement having an economic impact on the sport. Michael Phelps in swimming is another. We’re talking about athletes who become big media personalities, and that is the driver. But that benefits them and the knock-on impact is the sport.

Ultimately, the sports tend to recover. So even in lesser sports, you think of Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson retiring from rugby. It’s carried on, similar with cricket. All these sports tend to continue without these individual superstars.

For all the key dates in this year’s flat racing calendar check out our 2023 horse racing calendar post.

Remember, always gamble responsibly. Here’s our Safer Gambling Guide.