The Epsom Derby the holy grail of classic races, the one everyone wants to win. The countdown is on with less than two weeks to go. With any big event like this, the build up all adds to the excitement. It’s like Christmas, for me the build up is the best part, the anticipation...the unknown, is all part of the building excitement. With this analogy in mind, Breakfast with the Stars is a bit like doing your Christmas list and trying to decide which present you want most, then Derby day we find out if we got what we wanted.
The morning is great fun and you get to hear directly from the trainers about how they feel their Derby contenders will handle the competition and ground as well as reviewing how they have done in the recent trials. We arrived at 7.30am and greeted with a fantastic spread of food before the interviews and track work began. The morning was hosted by one of my favorite double acts; Nick Luck and Oli Bell, who do an amazing job in getting all the much sought after opinions and tips out of the trainers. The morning is open to the press and media as well as this year being the first year for the public to attend.
The interviews started with a phone call to Godolphin trainer, Charlie Appleby, who was in Newmarket and about to fly to Ireland. Charlie explained that he thinks the Guineas is the best trial for the Derby and MASAR ran a great race finishing 3rd, Nick also commented on how Charlie has had such a great start to the season. Charlie hopes to maintain his good form and all his horses are showing the right signs at home to ensure this. HAWKBILL being one horse who he said he is very happy with and is looking good and training well. Charlie saddles MASAR in the Derby, WILD ILLUSION in the Oaks and HAWKBILL in the Coronation.
We then headed outside to watch the horses run on the course. Unfortunately, there were a few changes to the running order due to the warmer weather however, we were not disappointed as Clive Cox and William Haggas made the journey to bring us a couple of their runners.
First up was YOUNG RASCAL for William Haggas ridden by James Doyle and led by ORIGINAL CHOICE. William is a Derby winning trainer but surprisingly has only ever had three runners in the race. This horse has a bit of a story and is owned by managing director of Investec, Bernard Kantor, fittingly this is Investec’s 10th year sponsoring the race, so to saddle the winner would be a story everyone would love. William said the horse is making great strides and he was happy with his work that morning.
The second gallop of the morning was from Clive Cox’s PERFECT CLARITY, ridden by Adama Kirby. Clive said the horse was an excellent price and he thought he would make an excellent each way bet. Adam told Clive he likes her and likes how she’s grown and is maturing. Clive mentioned that the Oaks picture has changed rapidly over the last two weeks with more contenders for the race being confirmed. Clive spoke about PERFECT CLARITY and how she has been at home saying “She’s a good eater and is blossoming in the weather. The next few weeks can make all the difference to her with the sun on her back after what has been a hard spring.”. Nick also asked about HARRY ANGEL, who Clive said will head to the Jubilee at Ascot. He said what a talented horse he is and glad to have him. Clive saddles PERFECT CLARITY in the Oaks.
We then had John Gosden on the phone talking with Nick about his thoughts on the race and his Oaks contender, LAH TI DAR. He went on to say he hopes she lives up to her pedigree and she grew and grew and is a very tall filly. A filly he said is crying out for a mile and a half very much like her mother. He told us a story about her mother, DAR RE MI, who apparently was entered for the Oaks but while riding out one morning someone started a lawn mower which spooked her and resulted in a slight lameness, the lawn mower was at Prescott’s who they have since asked his gardener to mow a little later in the day!
Nick then asked about ROARING LION, who John says they will urge on the side of caution with after the Dante. He is in great form going into the Derby and has great American turf pedigree and speed on his Dam side. He was not tuned for the Craven and he was not in the heart of the race for the Guineas.
Nick finally asks about CRACKSMAN who is says was an unfinished product so they decided to give him a holiday and has come back twice the horse he was, “He is like his father and has a great stride”. John saddles LAH TI DAR in the Oaks, ROARING LION in the Derby and CRACKSMAN in the Coronation.
We then had Aidan O’Brien on the phone who, as always, didn’t give much away! He said SAXON WARRIOR is progressing well and he is looking at having four runners in the Derby. Nick pushed on this point, asking if there was any potential of more runners from Ballydoyle... Aidan admitted he could have as many as six runners. He said if the horses are fit and well, they would be happy to run them. SAXON WARRIOR of course stands out of all his runners and is out of an impressive japanese stallion. The horse has a strong blend of GALILEO and DEEP IMPACT, and Aidan said he has not had anything like him before. Nick briefly touched on the tough decision Ryan will have for the Oaks, saying he thinks it will be hard for him to get of MAGIC WAND.
Finally, we heard from Harry Dunlop who has KNIGHT TO BEHOLD. Harry said the horse is in good form and working well at home in Lambourn. Oli Bell asked about his great run in the Lingfield Derby trial, which he won, and asked about how he took the lead and if he thought he would need to again to which Harry responded with the fact he didn’t think it was necessary he did and he keeps improving at home. He then said how nice it was to be present at the breakfast as this is his first runner in the race, and how surprising it has been to have so much interest from, not only the press, but the public too. Oli asked if Lambourn was behind him too, Harry said that people in the village shop had been wishing him luck which was so lovely to hear! Harry will saddle KNIGHT TO BEHOLD in the Derby.
To conclude the morning we heard from Epom Downs Racecourse, who told us about some of the exciting changes they have made to the day. The will have ‘Horse Play’ on the hill which will now be a family fun focused area, with Paw Patrol there on the day too. There will also be a new garden party feel layout in the main area. Nick then asked about safety on the day with racing being in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, they said their security measures were a 12 month plan and change throughout the year. To come in line with changes and keep up to date, there will be sniffer dogs and visible security presence at all entrances and throughout the day on course.