The draw for the Investec Derby took the form of a live ceremony for the first time on 31st May at Epsom Downs, conducted by two Investec Derby-winning jockeys – Geoff Lewis, who rode Mill Reef to victory in 1971, and John Reid, successful aboard Dr Devious in 1992.
Lewis, 82, has spent most of his lifetime in Epsom. He became an apprentice to trainer Ron Smyth in the town at the age of 15, having had his first glimpse of the Derby in 1950.
“Two friends and I got a bus from Shepherd’s Bush to Malden, and ended up walking miles to Epsom,” he recalled. “I couldn’t see a thing and this big fella ended up putting me on his shoulders. Rae Johnstone on the French horse (Galcador) beat Harry Carr a neck on the favourite (Prince Simon).”
Lewis rode his first winner at Epsom Downs, for Smyth, in April 1953 on a horse called Eastern Imp.
He partnered five Classic winners in total, including the Investec Oaks with Altesse Royale in 1971 and 1973, but the victory for which he will always be remembered was that of the Ian Balding-trained Mill Reef in the 21-runner 1971 Derby.
Lewis said: “A few of the best people rang me before the race and said, ‘Are you sure he will stay?’ I said, ‘Look, if he can work on the gallops we’ve got [at Kingsclere], there’s no doubt he will here [at Epsom Downs].
“In the early stages I dropped in behind, and found myself behind the one horse I didn’t want to have in front of me. But he took me to the five-furlong pole. Once we were over the road, off we went. He had so much speed.”
Lewis pulled off the Epsom Downs G1 treble in 1971, winning the Investec Derby on Mill Reef, the Investec Oaks aboard Altesse Royale and the Coronation Cup with Lupe. He trained successfully in Epsom, at Thirty Acre Barn, for 20 years (1979-1999).
“I WAS VERY CONFIDENT”: JOHN REID ON 1992 INVESTEC DERBY WINNER DR DEVIOUS
John Reid, 63, also has vivid memories of his win in the world’s most famous Flat race.
“It was an amazing story – Dr Devious was sold to race in the Kentucky Derby and to stay there [in the USA],” remembered Reid. “Unfortunately he ran pretty keen out there, the jockey couldn’t get him settled and he ran himself into the ground. The owners [Sidney and Jenny Craig] complained to [Dr Devious’s trainer] Peter Chapple-Hyam about the horse they’d been sold and he said, ‘Send him back’, which they did.
“I didn’t even know he was back when Peter rang me up to ask me to ride him – I thought he had gone for good. I hadn’t even ridden for Peter at that stage – it was my very first ride for him. After riding work on ‘the Doctor’ I was very confident. The horse looked fantastic – you couldn’t believe he had ever run in the Kentucky Derby – and after working at Manton [where Chapple-Hyam trained] on the very steep gallops – he ran out over the top of them – I was confident.
“Early in the race he was again a little bit keen for the first furlong and a half and I was just beginning to get worried that he wasn’t going to let me switch him off, then he did switch off and from then on it was easy peasy. I was taking it for granted that he would stay.”
Chapple-Hyam had trained Rodrigo De Triano to win the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket a month earlier with Lester Piggott in the saddle. The horse started the 13/2 favourite for The Derby, but could only finish ninth behind his stable-companion.
Reid said: “After a work morning when I rode ‘the Doctor’ and Lester rode Rodrigo, he and Peter knew Rodrigo wouldn’t stay, but the pressure was on for him to run. Lester did ask Peter if he could get off Rodrigo and ride the Doctor, but Peter said, ‘No, you stay where you are!'”
Dr Devious beat St Jovite by two lengths at odds of 8/1, although the Jim Bolger-trained colt reversed the form in The Irish Derby.
RESULTS OF THE DRAW
1 (6) Dee Ex Bee Mark Johnston 9st 0lb Silvestre De Sousa
2 (4) Delano Roosevelt (IRE) Aidan O’Brien, Ireland 9st 0lb
3 (3) Hazapour (IRE) D. K. Weld, Ireland 9st 0lb Frankie Dettori
4 (12) Kew Gardens (IRE) Aidan O’Brien, Ireland 9st 0lb
5 (2) Knight To Behold (IRE) Harry Dunlop 9st 0lb Richard Kingscote
6 (10) Masar (IRE) Charlie Appleby 9st 0lb William Buick
7 (5) Roaring Lion (USA) John Gosden 9st 0lb Oisin Murphy
8 (1) Saxon Warrior (JPN) Aidan O’Brien, Ireland 9st 0lb
9 (7) Sevenna Star (IRE) John Gosden 9st 0lb Robert Havlin
10 (11) The Pentagon (IRE) Aidan O’Brien, Ireland 9st 0lb
11 (9) Young Rascal (FR) William Haggas 9st 0lb James Doyle
12 (8) Zabriskie (IRE) Aidan O’Brien, Ireland 9st 0lb
SAXON VULNERABLE TO THE POWER OF ONE
Saxon Warrior is the 11/10 favourite for Saturday’s Investec Derby with Unibet, official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival, after a final field of 12 was declared this morning.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt, who was an impressive winner of the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket last time out, had been the odds-on favourite prior to the final declaration stage but this morning’s draw, which was screened live on Racing UK and Epsom’s Facebook Live page for the first time, was not kind to the favourite, who will be berthed in stall one.
Only three horses have won the Investec Derby from the inside gate (Blakeney 1969, Roberto 1972 and Oath 1999) since starting stalls were introduced in 1967 and no horse has won from stall one in any 12 furlong race at Epsom since 2000.
The weight of these statistics alone has been enough for Unibet to push Saxon Warrior out to odds-against for the first time since his taking QIPCO 2,000 Guineas success at Newmarket and the official betting partner is expecting to see opposition to the favourite in the run-up to the premier Classic.
Runaway Dante winner Roaring Lion is next in the market at 15/2, with Chester Vase victor Young Rascal, who sports the colours of Investec Managing Director Bernard Kantor, is an 8/1 chance.
Last year’s winning trainer O’Brien (successful with Wings Of Eagles 12 months ago) is responsible for five of the 12-strong field, with Delano Roosevelt (16/1), The Pentagon (22/1), Kew Gardens (33/1) and Zabriske (66/1) making up the quintet.
O’Brien also saddles five in tomorrow’s Investec Oaks, with the Ryan Moore-riddenMagic Wand the 9/2 second favourite behind 5/2 market leader Wild Illusion, owned by Godolphin.
Forever Together (11/2), Bye Bye Baby (6/1), I Can Fly (12/1) and Flattering(22/1) complete his Investec Oaks contingent.