Dettori emotional after carrying Olympic torch

Frankie Dettori “will never forget” the day he carried the Olympic torch at Ascot racecourse. The hugely-popular Italian, who rode all seven winners at the Berkshire track on an unforgettable day in September 1996, was taking part on the 53rd day of the torch’s journey.

Former heptathlete Denise Lewis brought the torch into the course, where she was greeted by a crowd of more than 10,000 people.

The 39-year-old, who won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, then handed the flame to Dettori, who carried it on former Cheltenham Festival winner Monsignor.

He completed a circuit of the parade ring on Monsignor, who was on loan from the charity HEROS (Homing Ex-Racehorses Organisation Scheme).

Dettori was initially forced to jump off the horse after the 18-year-old gelding appeared unnerved by the huge noise from spectators and later by the sight of the flame.

But after calming Monsignor, the jockey successfully rode the horse with the torch in hand before treating the crowd to his famous flying dismount.

Dettori said: “It is an honour and a privilege to be invited to carry the Olympic flame, especially at a track that holds such happy memories for me.

“I’ve been round this paddock thousands of times, I’ve seen the Queen here at Royal Ascot, but I’ve never seen a reception like it.

“I’ve had many memorable days riding into the winner’s enclosure at Ascot, but the reception I received today was unlike anything I’ve experienced before – it was incredible.

“The atmosphere was amazing with so many people here, including my entire family, which made it all the more special.

“I have never seen anything like it, there was a sea of people going crazy and it was a tremendous feeling to be part of it.

“Monsignor and I had a couple of scary moments, but I calmed him down and we got the torch around the paddock a couple of times, and we got the job done.

“It is a day I will never forget and I can’t wait for the Games to begin.

“I remember watching Muhammad Ali doing the same thing (carrying the torch), so to be mentioned in the same breath is absolutely emotional.”