The staff and diners at the Emperor Palace Chinese restaurant in Clonmel got a surprise on the evening of the May Bank Holiday Monday when they were joined by a famous guest.
He was none other than the jockey Frankie Dettori, who was accompanied by a group that included fellow jockey Colm Oâ€™Donoghue.
Ming Cheung explains â€œColm Oâ€™Donoghue (who is based at Aidan Oâ€™Brienâ€™s Ballydoyle stables) is a regular at the restaurant. He rang to book a table and advised us to have a camera at the ready.
Frankie Dettori spoke a greeting to us in Cantonese when he arrived. Heâ€™s a very nice guy and really approachableâ€.
Once the word spread, Ming said that some local racing fans waited for an hour and-a-half outside the Parnell Street restaurant until Dettori had finished his meal. The Italian jockey, one of the most popular figures in the sport, happily posed for photos with all and sundry.
Frankie Dettori has been Champion Jockey on three occasions and has ridden the winners of more than 500 Group races. His most celebrated achievement was riding all seven winners on British Championsâ€™ Day at Ascot in 1996. He is the son of the jockey Gianfranco Dettori, who was a prolific winner in Italy, and has been described by Lester Piggott as the best jockey currently riding.
The Epsom Derby was the only British Classic Race Dettori had not won in his career, until he was successful on his fifteenth attempt in 2007 on the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Authorized. The following day he won the Prix du Jockey Club on Lawman, notching up a derby double.
Since the end of last year he has been operating as a freelance, having split with Godolphin Racing, for whom he was stable jockey and had most of his big race victories.
The 42 year-old, who was born in Milan, was suspended from riding for six months last December after being found guilty of taking a prohibited substance. During this absence he took part in the 11th series of the UK reality TV show Celebrity Big Brother.
His ban from racing ends next Monday, 20th.