The Epsom Derby
This weekend, the two main classics of the flat, the Derby and the Oaks, will be run over the Epsom switchback course, with the Oaks, for fillys, on Friday, and the Derby, for colts, on Saturday. The Downs, at Epsom, have always been the venue for these two races, except for during the World War years, when it was moved, for safety reasons, to Newmarket.
These two races have always had very close ties, for both were inaugurated by a group of the aristocracy in the eighteenth century, with the Oaks being run in 1779, and the Derby having its first run on 4 May, 1780. The two who were the leading lights in the foundation of these races were Sir Charles Bunbury, and the Earl of Derby, both of whom lived in the Epsom area. With the Oaks already named after Lord Derby's house, Bunbury wanted the colt's race to be called after him, becoming known as,The Bunbury. It was decided, after a very heated meeting, that the best thing to do was to toss up a coin between the two men for the important privilege of giving the race a name.
Well, the toss favoured Lord Derby, whose family now has intrinsic links with both races. True or not, this is the story exactly as history has handed down.
The column this week will feature some of the major races at this important meeting, with the firm hope of picking up some very necessary expenses.The Ballydoyle challenge for the top races at this Epsom meeting will be a very strong one indeed, for it seems to me that in races where the big prize money goes down to fourth place, the aim of the stable is to snaffle the lot. Be that as it may, the O'Brien challenge will always command respect, and, over the meeting, the stable should win its fair share. We go first to the Oaks race on Friday, where, for me, the three that stand out are Kissed, The Fugue, and the Godolphin horse, Kailani. This Kailani won a good race last year, and in her comeback race recently, she looked good when coming clear of a decent field, and well, she could do no more than win. Also on Friday you have the Diomed Stakes, which should go to the consistent Fury, who has been going well in recent races. The Stoute stable, having a rather quiet season for them, can burst into life with the well-bred Russelliana, who should indeed have the measure of the field in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes, to round off Friday.
On Saturday, the main emphasis will be on the Investac Derby, but I will begin with the Woodcote Stakes, which always takes a deal of winning. Here I will be going for Euxton Hall, whose one run so far looks full of promise, and, if so, could be the one set for success. We now go to the Coronation Cup, which has been won by by many famous horses, and plump for St Nicholas Abbey to repeat last year's success, although he will get strong opposition from the in-form Red Cadeau, who put up a tremendous performance at the big York meeting recently. In the Dash H/cap, I will be going for the Tim Easterby trained Confessional to come good on the day, and make the trip down from the North well worth the trouble. This one has been close up in some top handicaps lately, and could be coming into form at the opportune time. The danger here is Desert Law, a good class animal, who is seeking his first win of the year, and should provide stern opposition to the selection. We now come to the Derby proper, where the inevitable O'Brien horse, Camelot, is, on form, a very worthy favourite, and indeed looks the horse who has all the right form to win this signal prize. In this small but select field, would I be tempting fate to go for the giant horse, John Gosden's Thought Worthy, who battled on well to win a recent good class Newmarket trial race. This horse, to me, looks to be something very special, and, if he can act well on the course, especially if he can handle the run down to Tattenham Corner, he could quite possibly put all of these in the shade. His rider, Willie Buick, has been riding literally out of his skin in recent times, and punching home quite a number of winners. You can be sure that this prestigious prize would really crown the racing year for him, and confirm the ongoing well being of the Gosden stable.
In the Epsom Derby on Saturday, all the jockeys will wear black armbands, in memory of that perennial 'Maestro' of world racing, the great Vincent O'Brien.
Have a really brilliant weekend, and remember, good hunting!
The Selection Box
Fri:- Eps:- 1-40--Russelliana, 2-50--Fury, 4-05--Kailani.
Sat:- Eps:- 2-05-Euxton Hall, 2-40-St. Nicholas Hall, 4-00-Thought Worthy.