Flat RacingHorse Racing

Steve Jones: “Imitated around the world, there are dozens of Derbies but only one Derby”

July 1, 2020

THE Derby. Just one word is all that’s needed.

Unless you’re from the East Midlands, have a penchant for bowler hats or are a happily married old lady called Joan, it can only mean one thing.

There will be no crowds allowed into Epsom this Saturday but the eyes of sports fans everywhere will still focus on the historic track for the world’s greatest Flat race – the Derby.

Ever since the 12th Earl of Derby won the right to have a new race named after him in what is suggested could’ve been a coin toss, a game of spoof or a rock/paper/scissors showdown with Sir Charles Bunbury (but is more likely to have been a friendly agreement between the pair at a party hosted by the Earl in 1779) the Derby has been a highlight of the sporting calendar.

It’s one of those rare races where not just racing fans want to know ‘what won the Derby?’ but the wider world as well. The man in the street (not forgetting women and other locations) at least takes a passing interest in the goings on at the most remarkable of tracks high up on Epsom Downs.

It must have been imitated a million times from Kentucky to the Curragh, Melbourne to Mumbai, but it has never been bettered. There are dozens of Derbies but only one Derby.

It is the sternest of tests of a Flat horse. A steep climb from when the gates open that TV pictures don’t seem to do justice to, through to the world-famous descent around Tattenham Corner and the long, cambered straight to the finish line.

The 1m4f of the Epsom’s Derby course exposes any flaw in balance, speed, stamina and temperament.

With such a daunting examination it cannot be a coincidence that, despite the clamour to breed speed into horses at seemingly every opportunity, Derby winners are feted when they retire to stud.

Of course, not all are a raging success but plenty are. That can only be good news.

Galileo stormed away with the 2001 Derby before becoming without doubt one of the most influential stallions in modern times.

It can be no surprise that the greatest breeding operation in the world, Coolmore, have had so much success in the Epsom Classic.

The backer of Aidan O’Brien’s all-powerful Ballydoyle racing stables has risen to the top of the world’s thoroughbred breeding tree, in part, by putting stamina into their pedigrees while others try to quench the commercial thirst for speed.

Galileo is getting to the age when he will need to be replaced in the Coolmore loveshack and the scramble to find another super stud starts with the Derby.

Australia has made a promising start to his post-racing career but it is Golden Horn, who stands at Coolmore’s bitter rivals Darley’s Dalham Hall Stud, that is showing potential to join the elite stallions.

This weekend could easily see the emergence of another. It just shows despite all the changes racing has seen in its 240-year history, the Derby remains the sport’s most iconic and influential British race. A Classic by name and nature.

Unibet is rightly proud to be the official betting partner of the Derby and, judging by the sponsorship deals, some of the biggest brands see the benefit of using the race to promote their businesses.

Banking and wealth management group Investec is the current big-money sponsor having taken over from mobile phones giant Vodafone in 2009, who backed the race for 13 years.

 

WHO WILL WIN THE RACE THIS YEAR?

Who will take the sponsor’s cash this weekend is the question everyone wants answered.

The trials have obviously been decimated this year and there’s no doubt English King was incredibly impressive at Lingfield. The form can be picked apart but it was more the manner of victory that sees him top the betting.

Aidan O’Brien will fire multiple arrows in attempt to win a record eighth Derby with Royal Ascot winner Russian Emperor the pick of his team.

Kameko has yet to race behind a mile but he looked sure to stay further when landing the 2000 Guineas. His breeding gives plenty of optimism for staying 1m4f and there is no doubt the form of the Newmarket Classic is the best on offer. At this stage he is my idea of the next Derby winner, probably the next champion and, possibly, the next super stallion.

That’s what the Derby does to horses.