Legendary Lester honoured and Aidan and Galileo make Epsom their own again as Anthony Van Dyck swoops to Victory.

The sun rose over the Downs to welcome in a glorious start to the Investec Derby Festival Derby Day and it pretty much stayed in place until the moon rose to take over duties.  The racecourse was literally bathed in sunshine right from the off for a beautiful day on the Downs and shone down on the participants who started arriving early.

The more formal of the two days, with morning dress required for gentleman in the Queen’s Stand and ladies asked to wear hats, we saw a slight shift in bias towards fitted midi dresses and bold colours and patterns for the Saturday.

On course early, we bumped into Claira and Minty from the GBRI British Champion Series, both looking super stylish in their outfits. It was great to see Etsy items on the racecourse with a beautiful hat by Etsy-based Cogg Millinery. If you are looking for options and have some time, Etsy (www.etsy.com) is a great place to browse through milliners, look for accessories or have something customised to finish off an outfit.

We managed to grab a few words with the ever-lovely Hayley Moore who had ridden work for her father Gary and been for a run before starting presenting duties.  Hayley is styled by Jessica Rea (www.jessicareamillinery.co.uk) and was wearing one of Jessica’s bespoke creations with a striking Closet dress (www.closet.com). We look forward to seeing Hayley at Ascot.

The day started in earnest with a display by the Red Devils and a team of parachutists landing on the course with perfect precision.  A dazzling display with representatives of the British Army flying the flags for Investec and the Army, all swooping down at great speed. 

No sooner than all were back on firm ground then the crowds started amassing in the sunshine for the arrival of the Queen. This year the anticipation of seeing Her Majesty was heightened by her role in the unveiling of a life-size statue of nine-time Derby winning jockey, the legendary Lester Piggott. 

Met by racecourse chairwoman Julia Budd and a cheer, the Queen looked resplendent in a sky blue coat and hat with a sky blue and yellow dress.   Her Majesty chatted with Lester in front of the statue (Lester was on board the Queen’s Carrozza when that filly won the 1957 Oaks).  The bronze statue is one of nine honouring Lester by renowned portrait sculptor William Newton, that will be installed at racecourses. Lester was on the right man, Aidan – for The Derby but picked out the 4th and 5th placed Broome and Sir Dragonet.

(We loved the view of The Queen’s binoculars being escorted around the course as well!)

Time for the racing: the first race, the Investec Private Banking Handicap saw Le Dom De Vie ridden by Martin Dwyer notch up a winner for Andrew Balding, with The Trader ridden by Silvestre de Sousa in second.

To the main event of the day, and a strong supporting card saw Richard Hannon Jnr record his 1000th winner of his career when the filly Anna Nerium won the Princess Elizabeth Stakes.  A great landmark for Richard who took over training from his father, Richard Hannon Snr at their base in Marlborough, Wiltshire, and the winner’s enclosure was full with Richard and his family and friends all gathering in recognition of a great achievement. 

Amongst those celebrating was Richard’s sister Lizzie Hughes (married to jockey Richard) who has the most wonderful hats to hire. We are a great fan of Lizzie who always stops for a chat. Lizzie has a huge selection of hats and fascinators, there is literally something for everyone. You can view the hats by visiting www.lizziehats.com or making an appointment to see them.  The showroom is based at Richard’s training yard in Lambourn, Berkshire. 

The Epsom Dash provided the annual spectacle of sprinters hurtling down the fastest 5 furlong track anywhere in the country before they climb the hill to the post. Ornate sprung a 33/1 shock by flashing home in a photo finish of necks and heads for trainer David Griffiths and jockey Phil Dennis. The camera would be very much in use for the following race, The Derby itself, when five horses crossed the line together.

Aidan O’Brien came to The Derby with a very strong hand, fielding seven of the 13 runners. All of the runners were there on merit and reflected the fire power coming out of Ballydoyle. The Derby is a race that Coolmore and “the Lads” (John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derek Smith) very much see as the epicentre of a three-year-old colt’s campaign and year after year Aidan has the front runners in the market. The sheer achievement of getting often-inexperienced colts primed and ready to run the race of their lives on the first Saturday in June year after year is absolutely incredible and one wonders if we will see his like again. 

Sir Dragonet, a wide margin winner of the Group 3 Chester Vase on his last start had been supplemented for the race by his connections and went off a narrow favourite as first choice for stable jockey Ryan Moore. 

With two furlongs to go it seemed likely that the Camelot colt was going to get his head in front but with the race run at a brisk pace, four more came out of the pack to challenge. In a pulsating finish which saw the Aidan trained Broome and Japan charge down the outside absolutely flat out and the Kevin Prendergast trained Madhmoon locked in combat with Sir Dragonet, it was Aiden’s third runner, Anthony Van Dyck who overcame a troubled passage to fly up the inside and win by a cosy half length in a belter of a finish. Anthony Van Dyck was ridden by the Ballydoyle super sub Seamie Heffernan to get his first Derby win. 

Anthony Van Dyck provided Aidan with a record seventh win in the Investec Derby, where he joins John Porter, Robert Robson and Fred Darling as the most successful trainers in the race’s 240-year history. He also trained the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th with only the fellow Irish trained Madhmoon preventing a clean sweep for the Ballydoyle army.

 Another intrinsic part of the Ballydoyle success story is the influence of Coolmore super sire Galileo who himself was siring his 4th Epsom Derby winner. The Daddy himself, the son of Sadlers Wells is stamping his dominance on The Derby in much the same way his one time trainer, Aidan is doing. 

Galileo was responsible as sire or paternal grand-sire for no less than 12 of the 13 runners in the field. Unbelievably, the one that wasn’t directly related to Galileo, Sir Dragonet, has the legendary broodmare Urban Sea as his grand dam and of course Urban Sea was also responsible for none other than Galileo himself. These are incredible statistics and outlines why Galileo really is a class apart as a sire.

The winner’s enclosure was absolutely packed as Anthony Van Dyck came in to rapturous applause for the horse and connections. The sun was still blazing as the presentations were made to the winners. To finish off the occasion the now annual confetti was fired over the winner’s enclosure to round off The Derby.

It was a beautiful day, marked by a brilliant trainer, a horse named after a Flemish Baroque artist of the 1600s and a breeding phenomenon aptly named after an Italian astronomer who looked at the stars.

Photographs by Rachel Groom.

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