Dettori’s Magnificent Seven

On Saturday, September 28, 1996, reigning champion jockey Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori arrived at Ascot Racecourse for the Festival of British Racing – a forerunner of what is now British Champions’ Day – with a full book of seven rides. Two, three or possibly four of them held realistic chances of winning but, at the start of the day, no-one – or, at least, hardly anyone – could have predicted that Dettori would achieve the nigh on impossible feat of partnering all seven winners on the card.

Dettori opened his account on Wall Street, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, on behalf of Goldolphin, his principal employer, in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes. Further success in the royal-blue silks of Godolphin followed on Diffident, who scraped home by a short head, in the Diamed Stakes, Mark Of Esteem in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and, later in the afternoon, Fatefully in the Roseberry Rated Stakes.

In between times, Dettori partnered Decorated Hero, trained by John Gosden, to an easy victory in the Tote Festival Handicap, causing BBC television to extend its coverage until just a time that Dettori was beaten. BBC producers were not to be disappointed because Dettori extended his winning sequence to six when making all the running to win the Blue Seal Stakes on Lochangel, trained by Andrew Balding. By that stage, the popular Italian jockey had already equalled the record held by Sir Gordon Richards and Alec Russell by winning six consecutive races on the same card but, with one race left, still had the chance to complete an unprecedented seven-timer.

Coincidentally, his remaining mount, Fujiyama Crest, had won the closing Gordon Carter Handicap on the same card the previous year but, having failed to add to his winning tally – including when finishing tailed off in the Northumberland Plate on his previous outing – was available at 12/1 on the morning of the race. Nevertheless, in the face of unprecedented liabilities, Fujiyama Crest started 2/1 favourite and, as he had done the previous year, made all the running to land the spoils. What henceforth became known as the ‘Magnificent Seven’ landed odds in excess of 25,000/1 at starting price and in excess of 235,000/1 at the best odds available.

Bullseye – Non Dart Thrower Wins Big

Talk about being lucky at the right time. And that look on her face!

Bob Sapp vs. Kimo K1 fight

A fight I’ve returned to a time or two over the years. The almost comical weight difference makes this MMA freakshow a sight to behold.

Aly Dia

Aly, or Ali, Dia is a Senegalese former professional footballer who, in November, 1996, was at the centre of the most famous hoax in the history of the Premier League. On the recommendation of someone purporting to be FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, Dia, 31, was signed, on a one-month deal, by Southampton manager Graeme Souness. At the time, Souness reportedly said, ‘He’s played with George Weah at Paris Saint-Germain, and last year he was playing in the second division in Germany.’

In any event, injuries limited Southampton to just two fit first-team strikers, Egil Ostenstad and Matt Le Tissier, for their home fixture against Leeds United on November 23, such that Dia was named as a substitute after just a single training session. Le Tissier was forced off with a thigh injury after just half and hour and Dia replaced him, to make his Premier League debut. It would, in fact, be his one and only Premier League appearance because he was, as Le Tissier put it, ‘f***ing hopeless’. After 85 minutes, with Southampton trailing 1-0, Souness cut his losses and replaced Dia with defender Ken Monkou.

It was really no surprise that Dia proved unworthy of top flight football because, unbeknown to Souness, prior to signing for Southampton he had been playing not in 2. Bundesliga, but in the Northern Premier League for Blyth Spartans. ‘George Weah’ had apparently recommended Dia to several other clubs, including Third Division Gillingham, whose manager Tony Pulis said later, ‘…we gave the lad a trial and he was rubbish’. Ultimately, Dia lasted just two weeks at Southampton – although he did earn £2,000 a week – before returning to non-league football with Gateshead in the Conference Premier.