Dettori, Pharoah, and girl power reign in golden year of racing

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Paris (AFP) - Frankie Dettori enjoyed a golden season in 2015 as Michelle Payne made history in the Melbourne Cup and American Pharoah basked in a rare Triple Crown glory.

Not in his wildest dreams could Dettori have envisaged such a remarkable return to the racing spotlight.

His high profile 2012 ban for recreational drug use and a painful split with Godolphin hinted at the waning of the charismatic Italian's glittering career.

Then along came the John Gosden-trained Golden Horn, the 44-year-old Dettori's ticket back to the big time.

The pair teamed up to land the Epsom Derby, justifying 13-8 favouritism, with Gosden also saddling the runner-up Jack Hobbs.

Fast forward to Paris in October and Dettori conjured up a masterful ride to claim the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with hat-trick seeking Treve taking third.

"I'm very content," he told The Guardian. "I'm 45 in December and when I retire in my 50s I can say: 'My career didn’t fizzle out.' So I feel very serene rather than being a grumpy old man. It’s been an amazing year."

This was Dettori's fourth success in Europe's richest race, drawing him level with Pat Eddery, the 11-time British flat champion who weeks later passed away at the age of 63 after a lengthy battle with alcoholism.

Golden Horn ended his career in gallant defeat in the Breeders' Cup Turf at racing's end-of-season festival in Kentucky lit up by American Pharoah.

Owner Ahmed Zayat's superstar electrified US racing, powering to the first Triple Crown sweep in 37 years, then bringing the curtain down on his career with an emphatic victory in the $5 million Classic.

"He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse," beamed Zayat.

Michelle Payne was echoing similar sentiments about Prince of Penzance after she became the first woman to win Australia's 154-year-old Melbourne Cup on the 100-1 outsider in November.

The 30-year-old Payne spoke eloquently about the significance of the history-breaking result.

"It's a very male-dominated sport and people think we (women) are not strong enough and all of the rest of it, but you know what, it's not all about strength," she said.

"There is so much more involved, getting the horse into a rhythm, getting the horse to try for you, it's being patient. And I'm so glad to win the Melbourne Cup and hopefully, it will help female jockeys from now on to get more of a go."

This year's Cup was staged after Australian racing had lost one of its legendary figures -- trainer Bart Cummings.

An 11-time winner of 'the race that stops the nation', Cummings died aged 87 in August.

Unlike Payne, Nina Carberry was unsuccessful in her quest to become the first woman to ride the winner of the Grand National at Aintree.

The closest a female rider has come to winning the marathon steeplechase first run in 1839 was Carberry's sister-in-law, Katie Walsh, who was third in 2012.

Carberry in the end had to settle for 16th on First Lieutenant behind Many Clouds, supplying his jockey Leighton Aspell with back-to-backs wins after Pineau de Re in 2014.

The Aintree showpiece failed to supply Tony McCoy with the perfect send off as the riding legend and owner of 20 jockey's titles headed into retirement.

The 40-year-old Northern Irishman hung up his irons with a record 4,382 race wins including two Gold Cups.

'AP' had to make do with a bit part in chasing's blue riband in March behind Coneygree, an eight-year-old novice who is among the leading contenders to follow up in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on December 26.

A five-time winner of the Boxing Day feature, Kauto Star, died in June after complications relating to a paddock fall.

British racing also mourned the death aged 97 of legendary television commentator, owner, gambler and journalist Peter O'Sullevan.

'The Voice of Racing's dulcet tones provided the soundtrack for racing fans for over half a century.