Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP
Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP

Ask a racing fan to name his or her favourite horse movie and they would probably nominate the 2003 production, Seabiscuit. He became a media sensation during the Great Depression in the 1930s US.

The latest horse racing movie — just released on the UK circuit — is Dettori, which portrays the life of jockey Frankie Dettori, who is as famous in his sport as Cristiano Ronaldo is in football and Rafael Nadal in tennis.

“I’ve had a very colourful, rollercoaster life, and now I’ve made a movie out of it,” 50-year-old Dettori told the Racing Post.

Perhaps it will not be a blockbuster like the 1944 movie National Velvet starring Elizabeth Taylor, whose character wins a downtrodden horse in a lottery and tries to turn him into a champion, but there is no question the scriptwriters had plenty to work on to grab the attention of moviegoers.

When Dettori says it has been a “rollercoaster ride” he is right on the button — a plane crash that nearly killed him, his “Magnificent Seven” winners at Ascot, his up-and-down time with Godolphin, a cocaine ban by French authorities and the revival of his career and successful partnership with star mare Enable.

So, after viewing the movie a couple of times, how does the Italian himself rate the final product? “My first thought was, wow, I’ve packed a lot into 50 years. I didn’t really know what to expect. They didn’t tell me much, just that it was going to be a surprise, and it was a surprise.

“I didn’t want the film to include just the good bits of my life. It had to have the bad bits as well. If they had asked me as a 30-year-old I maybe wouldn’t have been brave enough to do a film like this, or I might have tried to hide away from the bad things.

“Now I’m 50 and I don’t care what people think anymore. I’ve accepted the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve moved on and I want to tell it how it is,” Dettori said.

A part of the film deals with his rocky relationship with his father, Gianfranco Dettori, who was a successful jockey too, in Italy. “We were fighting all the time and just didn’t see eye to eye. I had my points of view and he had his points of view. I’m sure a lot of people who watch the film will be able to relate to that sort of thing in their own lives.”

It seems many racing movies have the theme of going from bad times to good. Seabiscuit, for example, was deemed untractable as a colt before becoming a champion.

War Horse is an inspiring 2011 film about the bond between a man and his horse and explores the power of love and friendship during a time of war. Shergar is about the Epsom Derby winner sensationally kidnapped by the Irish Republican Army and never seen again.

The world’s best-known jockey says the movie Dettori — nearly two hours long — “captures a bit of everything, that’s what my life has been like”.

It probably will not get an Oscar nomination but, after viewing the film, Dettori’s legion of fans will feel they know him as well as his family as they place a bet on one of his mounts at their local betting shop.

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