Jockey Jack Mitchell has admitted he is “excited” about turning his childhood dreams of riding in the Cazoo Derby tomorrow (Saturday 4th June) into reality - 19 years after first riding the famous Epsom Downs track as a schoolboy.
Mitchell was only 14 when he got the chance to gallop around part of the track on one of his father’s horses, but will do it for real tomorrow when he lines up in the world’s most famous Flat race on the unbeaten West Wind Blows for the father-son training partnership of Simon and Ed Crisford.
The 33 year old grew up near the course and his grandfather Cyril and father Philip trained at nearby Downs House stables between them for 48 years until 2012.
His local knowledge and passion for The Derby leaves him in no doubt about the task facing West Wind Blows, but he is nonetheless looking forwards to being part of the occasion.
Mitchell said: “It is very exciting with the whole lead-up to it. Being part of the parade, something I watched as a kid, was always something I wanted to do and be involved with.
“When Dad had a few horses in Epsom I rode out there. Once or twice a year Epsom would open the track to trainers in the area.
“I was always one to put my hand up for that and I remember hurtling around there when I was about 14. We worked from the mile and a half start to the six pole and we had to pull up before Tattenham Corner.
“I lived here until I left home at 18. I still have a lot of friends there and I’ve got a tie with the place having growing up here.”
While it will be Mitchell doing the steering aboard West Wind Blows on Saturday, the father of two has praised the efforts of retired Grade One-winning Jump jockey Paul Holley for helping educate his mount behind the scenes.
He added: “We don’t fully know how nice a horse he is, as he is a funny horse to deal with. Paul Holley rides him at home every day and he has done a great job settling him down.
“He does lack a bit of experience and that’s why we took him to the gallops morning at the track. He had a bit of an ordeal at Newbury (in April, when he was withdrawn after unseating his rider and running loose before the start). It didn’t set him back but it didn’t help his cause.
“He seems to have grown up as he settled well when I rode him around Epsom the other day. Although there was no funfair or anything like that there was still plenty going on. The hardest thing was pulling him up after the gallop.
“One of the main things will be getting him to the start as he is quite a free sweater. As long as I get him down there nice and relaxed I can then start to think of the race after that.”
When it comes to drawing comparisons with other horses Mitchell feels that the Abdulla Al Mansoori-owned colt has a similar profile to last year’s shock Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Torquator Tasso, who Mitchell finished second aboard in the 2020 Deutsches Derby.
Mitchell added: “I’ve ridden in plenty of Group Ones, but they have been mainly abroad. I still don’t know how I got touched off in the 2020 German Derby on last year’s Arc winner Torquato Tasso.
“Like West Wind Blows, Torquato Tasso had only had two runs before going into that and he was a decent price too. He has a similar profile and he has done nothing wrong since his last race at Nottingham.”
West Wind Blows will have to defy history if he is to succeed from stall 11, with no horse having won from that berth since the introduction of starting stalls in 1967. However, while stopping short of predicting a win, Mitchell feels his mount could pick up some prize money.
He added: “The mile and a half is well within his reach and that trip will probably see the best of him as he has very high cruising gears.
“He is relatively unexposed and I just hope that he can run his race. I was quite happy with stall 11 as if he does run a bit keen we know that we are not boxed on the inside and that if he does pull I can let him go on and use his stride.
“If he finishes in the first six it would be a massive run but there will be some nice races for him this summer regardless of what happens here.”
The father-of-two will bid to give former professional footballer turned film star Vinnie Jones, who is part of The Rogues Gallery Syndicate, a Classic victory today (Friday) when partnering the Tom Clover-trained Rogue Millennium in the Cazoo Oaks.
Despite having ridden more than 700 winners, Mitchell has already received instructions from his eight year old son Oliver on how to ride Frankel filly in the mile and a half contest, who he secured Listed honours on last time out in the Lingfield Oaks Trial.
He explained: “I was talking to the kids at breakfast yesterday morning and my little boy out of the blue when I was looking at the declarations for Saturday and he told me how to ride Rogue Millennium.
“She has got a massive following and, similar to West Wind Blows, she has done nothing wrong. She has probably stepped up quicker than West Wind Blows in that she is already a Stakes winner.
“At Lingfield, she showed a bit of class coming down the hill and she showed a nice turn of foot at the end. She was still a bit green but if she had something to race with she would have been more straight and true.
“It would be great to get some more people like Vinnie Jones involved. They are a great syndicate that really wear their heart on their sleeves.”