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Article 21st May 2024 Epsom Downs

Deira Mile under Jim Crowley

Macduff with Rossa Ryan

 Dancing Gemini with William Cox

 Voyage with Pat Dobbs

Epsom Downs Racecourse today played host to its annual Betfred Derby Festival Gallops Morning. The Betfred Derby Festival takes place on Friday 31st May and Saturday 1st June.

The Gallops Morning saw four Betfred Derby contenders put through their paces on the famous Epsom Downs turf with each of the quartet working with a galloping companion.

Dancing Gemini

Trainer Roger Teal said: “I was very happy with that. He looked good coming down the hill to me and I just wanted to confirm with William (Cox, rider) what he felt. William was delighted and said he handled the track beautifully.

“It’s on the easy side out there so it was lovely ground to do that this morning. Obviously we haven’t gone mad but it was a nice healthy exercise. He only ran nine days ago, so the whole point of coming here was to give him a feel of the layout of the track. It looked good and William said it felt good.

“I think we’re going to come here (for the Betfred Derby). I think we’re going to roll our sleeves up and come here. Obviously it’s very tempting to go back to France but it would be lovely to win the Derby, or at least have a crack at the Derby.

“To come here with a live contender is wonderful and very exciting for all the team – David, wife Linda and all the team back home. I think we’re all excited about having a crack at our own Derby rather than going across the Channel so fingers crossed we can get here in a couple of weeks’ time and run well.”

Asked when the Derby became a realistic prospect for Dancing Gemini, he replied: “We had these discussions last year. He’s a very speedy horse but he’s also got the breeding to be a mile and a halfer – his dad (Camelot) won the Derby and he’s out of an Australia mare (Lady Adelaide), as is well documented, so on breeding he’s bred to get it.

“He’s got such a relaxed manner about him that you can put him to sleep and then hopefully use his burst of speed towards the end of the race. There’s positives – he’s not guaranteed to stay, no horse is, but on paper he’s got more of a chance of staying than he hasn’t.”

Asked whether the openness of this year’s race gives him extra hope, he added: “It’s the Derby and there will be good horses wherever we go. The field has thinned out and it does help a little bit.

“Godolphin have lost two major contenders and the horse at Chester (Hidden Law) looked to be a very impressive winner before what happened. But yes, it’s an open field and we’ve got to have a crack at it, I think. It’s the only year because he’s a three year old – we can’t bring him back next year! It’s very exciting so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Asked if a Classic victory at Epsom would be extra special, having worked and trained out of the Surrey town earlier in his career, Teal replied: “There’s lots of good memories for me around here.

“I literally worked across by the Derby start. I used to stand in Philip’s (Mitchell, former trainer) garden for years and watch the runners go by so it’s nice being on the other side of the fence.

“It’ll be very exciting - very nerve-racking as well and I probably won’t sleep much a few days before, but it’ll be lovely to come back. It’s very exciting to be involved in it. I never thought I would be, but here we go – we’re here!”

Dylan Browne McMonagle will ride Dancing Gemini on June 1st and Teal laughed: “Dylan’s riding him. He’s already been on the phone to see how he worked.

“Unfortunately Dylan couldn’t make it today because he’s at Cork. Dylan keeps the ride but I’ve got to make a phone call to let him know my decision.

“It came about through Mr Fish (owner, Dancing Gemini). Mr Fish has got horses with Joseph (O’Brien). Dylan rode a listed winner, Dancing Tango, for Mr Fish at the end of last season and Joseph kindly offered Dylan’s services.

“We were looking for a jockey that we could stick with him – there are lots of good lads over here but they’re attached to big stables so unfortunately we needed to broaden our horizons and Dylan looked like he was going to be available, especially for the French Guineas and obviously the Derby now.

“He’s bought into what we’re doing and he believes in the horse, which is an added bonus. He’s very confident in the horse, especially after riding him in France and he’s a cool cookie and I think that’s what you need on big days.” 

Deira Mile

Trainer Owen Burrows is looking forward to saddling his second Derby runner with Dancing Gemini.

He said today: “Epsom has special memories for me as I had my first Group One winner with Hukum in the Coronation Cup a couple of years ago and I was fortunate enough to be working for Sir Michael Stoute when he sent out the Derby winners Kris Kin (2003), North Light (2004) and Workforce (2010). They are happy memories and it would be nice if I could add my name to the Derby! The Classics are the races we all want to win.

“It wouldn’t usually be my style to come to something like this but I just felt it might suit this horse. He was highly tried on his last run of 2023 up at Doncaster in a Group One (the Futurity Stakes) and I wanted to just get his head in front this season in as weak a race as we could find and I feel we did that at Windsor, where he won nicely.

“I feel he has taken a big step forward from that and Ahmad (Al Shaikh, owner) was adamant he didn’t want to go for a trial, so I thought today would give us the ideal opportunity to come and get a feel of the track.

"Jim was very pleased with him and I was very pleased visually with him. Fingers crossed, today has done him some good.

“His pedigree suggests that he was always going to be more of a three-year-old and you can see that – he’s a big lad. I also think the trip won’t bother him at all. He’s not slow though.

“His form from the Futurity looks solid and ground all comes the same to him – Jim said he loved it out there today and if it turned out to be soft then it wouldn’t be a problem.

“At the moment, the Derby is looking open. Godolphin have had some terrible luck and Aidan’s horse (City OF Troy) needs to come back. I was impressed with James Fanshawe’s horse (Ambiente Friendly) at Lingfield and I think it’s certainly a race you wouldn’t be afraid to have a crack at.”

Jockey Jim Crowley is set to have his fourth Derby ride on Deira Mile and he said: “He has improved a huge amount since Windsor, which wasn’t a strong race but a nice confidence booster. Physically, he has done very well since then and is surprising me.

“I was really happy with him today. He handled the track really well and he seems to be in a really good place. I am looking forward to riding him in the Derby and I think he’ll run a big race – I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t.

“He’ll stay very well and seems a well-balanced horse who is really thriving at the moment.

“His backend two-year-old form is strong and you can see how well he has done. It’s exciting.

“He’s not overly big but well-balanced and switched leads in the right places today. Everything went well today. "The Derby looks a very open race but this horse is going there in great order and ready to run.”


Trainer Ralph Beckett said: “I am very happy and he did what we hoped he would do today.

“He is a very straightforward customer and has got the right mindset – he enjoys his work and gets on with it. He’s a well-balanced horse.

“We came here today as he hasn’t run since April 26th and go somewhere and do something with him. This today fitted in very well.

“At Sandown, he put up a good effort and hopefully he will come forward significantly for it. We weren’t running many at that time and they were running OK but not winning so it was a good effort.

“He is out of a Bated Breath mare who was a half-sister to Kingman, so there is plenty of speed there but he shapes more like Sea The Stars than Kingman or Bated Breath in my view. In terms of the way he is made and the way he trains, there is more cause for optimism going up in trip with him.

“There are not any real comparisons between him and Westover (3rd in the 2022 Derby) other than they are both enthusiastic about life in general. Westover’s enthusiasm needed managing but this fellow’s doesn’t really.

“Macduff is an enthusiastic horse and Rossa is confident he’ll cope with the downhill course on Saturday week.

“To win the Derby is what we all aspire to. As a trainer and an Englishman, there is nothing more important.”

Jockey Rossa Ryan said: “He felt very good and it was a nice gallop for him away from home. I didn’t have any real concerns and he took to the hill like I thought he would.

“He picked up well and is not a flashy horse – he’ll only ever do what I ask him to do. It’s all systems go now.

“It was Good to Soft out there today which is probably best for a gallops morning like today. I’d imagine any more sun that will come will play to Macduff’s advantage.

“I think the Classic Trial at Sandown was one of the better trials in my opinion. He was always going to improve and he finished a good second that day. He’s got a great attitude and the horse that beat us that day (Arabian Crown) would be vying for favouritism but is obviously out now.

“I was very taken by James Fanshawe’s horse (Ambiente Friendly) at Lingfield but the field looks very open as City Of Troy didn’t turn up in the Guineas. Dancing Gemini has to get a mention – he was very good in France I thought and is bred for this trip. I have sat on him before and can see why Roger is taking this line.

“You’re looking to see how he handles the undulations. He came round the bend on the wrong leg and he handled it really well.

“You want to put him out of his comfort zone to be able to adjust to a situation. He did everything right, he travelled away great and he just picked up and did what I asked him.

“I didn’t want him to do any more and he’d have done less if I let him but he’s done everything right, as I thought he would. He’s got a very good centre of gravity so he probably just put Ralph and Juddmonte’s mind at ease with the way he handled the place.

“He definitely fulfilled what I thought he’d do around the bend and did it professionally.”

About this potentially being an open Betfred Derby, Ryan replied: “Aidan has turned up year after year – Auguste Rodin last year and there’s arguments to be made that Auguste Rodin was bred to be that trip and City Of Troy has a question mark really. Seeing how impressive he was as a two year old, you wonder whether a mile and a half would stretch him a small bit.

“But then there’s quite a few horses there that are probably going under the radar because they’re not trained by the Aidan O’Briens or the John Gosdens and they have some very solid form so in the betting market it probably is wide open but when you get tighter and come to the day it probably won’t be as wide open.”

Ryan would be making his debut in the race and, asked whether the Betfred Derby is a race he has always wanted to win, he replied: “It would be everyone’s dream. Epsom is a special place and it’s been good to me down through the years so hopefully it can be even better too.

“I’ve only had one ride in a Classic, when I finished fifth in the Oaks but at 66-1 that wasn’t too bad. There was no pressure. She was a good ride and you could put her where you wanted and I couldn’t really believe how everything fell so well for me from a wide stall.

“I haven’t ridden in the Derby … but you have to treat it as just another race and we’ll carry on that way.”

Asked if he has any concerns about Macduff on Derby Day in front of a full crowd, packed Hill and a funfair, he replied: “I don’t think so. He gets a bit excited and he did when he first got onto the grass here and then he walked a furlong and he was happy and it didn’t bother him.

“I don’t think he will get too bothered and he’ll take it all in his stride. He’s got a good mind, which is definitely what you need.

“He’s very big. He’s a big barrel of a horse. I remember when he ran first time at Newmarket, he didn’t really come down the hill for me and I think that was more just greenness than anything but he certainly handled it this morning.

“He’s done everything right. He looks a picture, he was always going to tighten up from his first run and his work at home has been solid with what we’ve asked because he’ll only give you what you ask of him.

“He could be one that could go under the radar and everyone else doesn’t turn up but we don’t know. We haven’t gone under the bonnet fully to see what’s there.

“He was a bit weak last year as a two year old but still was running behind good horses whose form has stood up well so we’ll see.”


Trainer Richard Hannon said: “This fella ran very well at Newbury, travelled very well. This track will suit him – I just hope he’s not too keen. He can be a little bit keen. If he does that here then he’ll have trouble getting the trip but if he settles.

“We don’t know how high the bar is or how high he can go but we’re hoping he’s a good horse… “The Derby … quite often they’re hiding as horses that we haven’t seen the best of them on the track yet.”

Asked if his performance at Newbury had come as a “surprise”, he went on: “It took me by surprise that he kept going - the way he was so keen you must be a very decent horse to have done that, but I wasn’t angry or annoyed I can tell you. Surprised? A little bit yes.”

Asked how they compare to his other Derby horses like Mojo Star in 2021 and Humphrey Bogart in 2016, he replied: “They both ran very well and both times we thought we were slightly taking a chance.

“This fella, he’s not very experienced. He’s unbeaten – that’s one thing you can say for him. But it’s whether he’s good enough and I don’t think there’s any way of finding that out until after the race.”

Hannon said he was delighted to have a live contender, not only for jockey Pat Dobbs, who has only ridden in the race once before – when 10th on Moheet for Hannon in 2015 – but also for owner Julie Wood.

He said of them: “He’s riding very well. He rides all of Julie’s and it’s great that she sticks by him. She’s extremely loyal, in every way, and it’s great for her to have a runner and I hope he runs well for her.

“You’ve no idea how much she loves it. She won’t sleep for two weeks between now and then. I have no problem sleeping!”

Asked why he hadn’t run his Derby contender in a trial in the build-up to the Classic, he replied: “I didn’t want to burst the bubble. He’s going in there having won his maiden. Running in a trial, he couldn’t do any more than he’s done in that maiden and we like to come here on the back of a win.

“I don’t know if he’d have won a Derby trial – he might have. He was a horse that burst onto the scene and Julie was very keen to keep him there for the Derby… She’s very keen to keep the dream alive and that’s what she’s done and she’s enjoying all this experience and hopefully it’s all a positive one for her. “It’s great for her and we’re all looking forward to it.”

Jockey Pat Dobbs said: “It couldn’t have gone better and I’m very happy with him. We went a mile and they’ve had a bit of rain overnight so the ground is lovely. It all went smoothly and we’re very happy with him.”

Asked what he knew of Voyage’s potential before his victory earlier this season, he replied: “Not much that day as I hadn’t sat on him much, but I rode him the back end of last year. He was ready to run but he was still very weak. Julie decided not to run him just to keep him as a three year old as his pedigree is all three year old, so it was a good choice.

“He’s a horse that doesn’t need much work. He’s kind of forward going and he’s a little bit keen sometimes...

“I was very pleasantly surprised. He didn’t do everything right – he was keen, they went slow and I had no option just to let him go as we turned in and my arms were nearly dead! But he had plenty left on the line and I think with the step up to a mile and a half he’ll definitely improve.

“He’s a horse that’s only learning but I was very happy with how he went down to the start today. He went down nice and calm and came back beautiful. I was surprised at how relaxed he was in behind his lead horse.

“Hopefully he’s grown up. The Derby is obviously a very hard race to win but that’s why you’re in it. It’s exciting, of course.

“It’s the reason you get up and out of bed in the morning, to try and get rides like him. It’s very hard to get on horses like him so hopefully he’ll show up and run another nice race.

Dobbs was on board Pether’s Moon for the Coronation Cup win in 2015 and he recalled: “It was a brilliant day and the same day as my only other ride in the Derby actually, which Golden Horn won, who is the sire of Julie’s (Wood, owner) horse

  • Photo credit - John Hoy/The Jockey Club


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