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Favourite Derby Moments

Article 23rd January 2020 Epsom Downs

By Epsom Downs Racecourse

We’ve been chatting to some key players in the horse racing industry, from both here at Epsom Downs Racecourse and further afield, to discover their all-time favourite Derby memories. First run in 1780 and known by many as The Greatest Flat Race in the World, the race has undoubtedly delivered a reel of unforgettable moments. Is there one that sticks in your mind? Tweet us @EpsomRacecourse using #MyDerbyMemory to share your story.


Michael Bell – Derby winning trainer

"The Investec Derby is the ultimate test of a horse over such a unique track with so many undulations. You need your horse to be well balanced, have a high cruising speed, a good temperament but first and foremost a good engine.

Choosing my fondest Derby memory is an easy one, June 4th 2005, Motivator.

He’d had a spin around Epsom in the Spring so we were confident that he would handle the track. He was a son of Montjeu, so there was a chance the day might have got to him but we had done as much ‘dotting of the i’s and crossing of the t’s’ as possible in preparation. I am never short on confidence but I was particularly confident that day. There is always added pressure of being favourite for a race like the Investec Derby but that is exactly the sort of pressure all trainers crave for. We’d like to have the favourite for the Investec Derby every year! Having the race put to bed nice and early so I could enjoy the last two furlongs, it was an amazing performance.

That evening we took all the lads to The Yard pub, our local watering hole. I then took my family to the Chinese, The Fountain, which is just round the corner and then came home and watched the race video over and over again until the tape ran out!"


Andrew Cooper – Head of Racing & Clerk of the Course

"There have been so many since I became Epsom's Clerk of the Course in 1996 - including my favourite Derby winners in Galileo and Sea The Stars - but as a single moment I would pick out the record-breaking performance of Workforce in 2010.

No horse in history has ever run the 1 mile 4 Furlongs Derby course quicker than he did - knocking almost a second off the previous record held by Lammtarra - as he bolted up by 7 lengths in a time of 2 minutes 31.33 seconds. I could scarcely believe the winning time when announced by the judge.

Trained and ridden by the brilliant combination of Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore, it was a breathtaking performance, on ground that for the first time in my experience we had irrigated overnight."


Johnny Murtagh  - Derby winning jockey

"Epsom is a very undulating track. Uphill at the start, downhill into the straight and then the camber in the straight itself, the track is unique.

The first race I ever saw, as an eleven year old, was Shergar winning the Investec Derby. My uncle was a big racing fan and he showed me the Investec Derby - that was the first time I can remember seeing a horse race. Shergar was being ridden by an 18 year old guy (Walter Swinburn) in his green colours, the horse won easily with his tongue hanging out. A few years later, I would be in those same green colours winning my first Investec Derby on Sinndar- the first one is always special.

Heading into the race we were quietly confident, he was going really well at home and I walked the track in the morning and said to myself ‘I want to give this horse the best chance of winning’ put him in the right spot. The race couldn’t of worked out better, I got a lovely run, everything went good and I knew from the two furlong pole I was going to win.

After the race I came home to Ireland and didn’t do too much, I had to go to France the next day to ride in the Prix de Diane. I remember Clive Brittain ringing me and saying, “you will be in France tomorrow to ride for me won’t you!?” and so it was off early the next day and on to Chantilly.

To have won the Investec Derby three times means everything, it is something I am really proud of. The first race I ever saw was the Epsom Derby, the history of the race itself and there are so many great jockeys who sometimes never win the Derby, I have just been very fortunate to win it on three occasions."


Dominic Toole – Stable Manager, Epsom Downs Racecourse

"It has to be my first one working in the racing stables at Tattenham Corner in 1990 when I was just 18 year’s old. That was the year Quest For Fame won it.

I’d been told before I came to Epsom that Derby Day was special and they weren’t wrong. I’d never seen so many people in one place before just for a horse race. The atmosphere and the noise – it is truly amazing. It had everything from fairgrounds, to a market in the middle and it all started as soon as the sun came up and finished well in to the night. A day I will never forget."


Martin Dwyer - Derby winning Jockey

"There are a lot of challenges when riding in the biggest race of the world, the Investec Derby.

The track poses lots of different challenges which is why it is the hardest race in the world to win.

I have been in love with the Derby since I was a kid, it’s what got me into racing. My Dad use to watch racing every Saturday and he always watched the Derby and used to drag me in to watch it - to win it was a pretty special moment.

I was confident that we had a live shot heading into the race with Sir Percy because he had run so well in the Guineas and I knew he would stay and had been training well. We were confident of a big run but you can never go into an Derby thinking you were going to win.

The four-way photo finish makes it a little bit more special because it was a proper race, it wasn’t like I had gone 10 lengths clear and coasted home. I think it was the closest Derby they’d had for some time and I didn’t actually know if I had won for sure crossing the line which added to the suspense. My gut feeling was that I thought I had won but I wasn’t sure and you can never be certain. A couple of the other jockeys were saying well done to Daryl Holland after the line so my heart sunk pulling up and it wasn’t until I turned around and cantered back and saw it on the big screen that I realised for sure I had won.

That evening we went back to the Queens Arms in East Garston with the Owners and had a bit of a celebration but to be honest it took a few days for it to sink in properly!"


We'd love to hear your memories too. Tweet us @EpsomRacecourse using #MyDerbyMemory to share your story.


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