“I wrote a full chequebook of 50 cheques the next day, the smallest win was £10,000, the biggest was £212,000, but we did not know what we were in for. An old lady had a 50p accumulator that won her £57,000 - she nearly dropped dead when I gave her the £57k!”
Betfred’s Fred Done is recalling a day that racing lovers up and down the country, punters and bookmakers alike will never forget. In late September 1996, 25 years ago this week, Frankie Dettori rode all seven winners on one fine day at Ascot, including the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, that cost bookmakers over £30m.
It is a feat we are unlikely to ever see again, not on this scale. The cumulative SP odds of these wins was 25,051-1, although the odds earlier in the day meant the actual value of the seven-fold accumulator was over 200,000/1. The hype around the day built and built, until there were millions of people gathered in bookies up and down the country to watch his final ride.
“I can remember everything about it,” Done said on Betfred TV. “It was the perfect storm that day, I went big on the bonus, Yankees, Lucky 31s, Lucky 63s, I went big on it. Perfect storm, it was the busiest meeting, Ascot, it was on TV and it was the most popular jockey of the day. And what happened? He rode seven. I'll tell you, your life changed before you. That day, the business was out of control. Never mind what William Hills, Coral, Ladbrokes said, it was out of control. We did not know if we were going to be in business the following morning. It was that difficult.”
The day started with an innocuous 2/1 winner for Dettori, who guided Wall Street to victory in the opening race of the day. As it would happen, the bookmakers would face a Wall Street Crash of their very own come the close of play.
His second winner got people talking, as he won on an unfancied 12/1 shot Diffident before he rode the third home, Mark of Esteem, at 100/30. Fred Done was already worried by this point, as Betfred offered extra bonuses on all multiple bets such as Yankees and Canadians.
The win on Decorated Hero, another longer odds horse, saw Fred return to his offices, aware that something truly spectacular was afoot. The phones were ringing off the hook and the shop floors were packed with spectators willing to take a punt on Dettori’s next few rides, and although that meant the odds were drastically shortened by the off, they’d already suffered by offering long odds in the morning.
His fifth, Fatefully, came in at 7/4. Then his sixth, Lochangel at 5/4. A huge amount of damage had already been done before he even saddled up on his seventh winner, Fujiyama Crest, but that win meant Done had to pay out around £3.5m. This staggering achievement made Frankie Dettori a household name and left Done a hell of a lot poorer, but he doesn’t regret offering the bonuses for a second.
"I'd do bigger bonuses than I did last time! No, strictly speaking, I would do exactly the same. I've been doing it for 25 years and I wouldn't change."