A schoolgirl who sparked a Twitter hunt for jockey Frankie Dettori finally met with her hero at Newmarket Racecourse.
Lillie May, aged 10, sent a charming hand-written note to the Italian jockey back in February to ask for a signed picture to post in the library of St. Andrew’s Church of England Primary School in Soham, Cambridgeshire.
However, with no current address available for Dettori, the youngster sent the letter to the site of Frankie’s – the old restaurant in Knightsbridge, London, which he formerly co-owned with celebrity chef Marco Pierre White – which is now The Hawksmoor.
Current owners Will and Kat Beckett then posted images of the letter to their 50,000 Twitter followers with the hashtags #FindFrankie and #HelpLillie, where it was picked up by Great British Racing, the sport’s promotional and marketing organisation, who arranged for Lillie to meet her idol.
As well as receiving the desired signed pictures, Lillie was also gifted a signed copy of Dettori’s autobiography ‘Frankie’ and was taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of Newmarket Racecourse before the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas, including a trip to the Weighing Room and the opportunity to take to the scales in front of the judges as a jockey would pre-race.
The good karma generated from this meeting would repay Dettori almost immediately as he later went on to win the big race aboard the Hugo Palmer-trained horse Galileo Gold, who was successful at odds of 14/1.
Lillie said: “I was so excited to meet my hero Frankie Dettori. When my school asked us to write to our idols I knew I wanted my letter to be to Frankie. I’m so happy that he sent me a signed picture and to meet him today was a dream come true. I’ve been telling all my friends at school this week and they have all been very jealous!”
Lillie’s mother Cathy added: “Lillie is such a big racing fan and she has always loved Frankie. When she sent the letter, I did not really expect a response, but the reaction we have had was overwhelming. I cannot thank Frankie enough for his time and kindness, he has really made Lillie’s day and it is a moment she will never forget.”
Frankie added: “It’s lovely to receive a hand-written letter from any young racing fan and I was only happy to help and show her what we get up to behind the scenes. What made it even more special was winning the 2,000 Guineas afterwards – maybe she is my lucky charm!”
Mike Harrison, Assistant Headteacher at St Andrew’s, added: “We are always trying to find fun and engaging ways to fulfil the curriculum at St. Andrew’s. To help develop skills in formal and persuasive letter writing, we encouraged the children to research a public figure who inspires them in order to write a letter. The anticipation and excitement the children got from sending a ‘real-life’ letter, and then to receive a response in return, is learning at its best.
“Lillie has been a horse enthusiast for many years and I understand both her parents are involved in the racing industry in some capacity. Her letter to Frankie Dettori reflected her knowledge of his career, her own love of horses and the pride she takes in her school work. The response she received from Frankie is beyond anything we at St. Andrew’s and Lillie ever imagined!
“We would like to thank both Great British Racing and Frankie Dettori for helping Lillie fulfil a dream and ignite a child’s passion for writing.”
Lillie’s letter to Frankie Dettori
Dear Frankie Dettori,
My name is Lillie and I am 10 years old. I am also a pupil of St. Andrew’s Primary School but I live in Soham. I am a massive fan. When I first met you I was very interested in horses. Now I have my own horses I’m just like you.
I have heard a lot about your family and a bit about your childhood. I’m guessing your father Gianfranco was a professional jockey back in Italy.
I have also heard that your mother was a circus performed which was to perform backflips whilst riding two horses. Which is impressive.
I am amazed that it took you 15 attempts before you won your first Epsom Derby.
I was very upset that in 2000 you were involved in a plane crash in Newmarket.
I have watched a video that you once rode seven winners from all seven different races in Ascot Racecourse in 1996
Since I’m a massive fan I would love a signed photo for St Andrews primary school to put in our library and adore every day.
I would appreciate a response. Thank you for reading this letter.
I hope to hear back. With great respect.
She absolutely loves her job (how many people can say that?!) and is truly grateful to all supporters of and contributors to Eclipse Magazine.
If you are reading this she would like to say THANK YOU! (And please spread the word about Eclipse...!!)