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Course knowledge a crucial asset in the toughest of tests; THE BIG EPSOM QUESTIONS How important is jockey experience?

EPSOM provides a unique test for all who compete there, and the two Classics the sternest examination of all.

Speed, stamina, balance and temperament are just some of the qualities required of the equine participants, and John Gosden and Andre Fabre are among trainers who go out of their way to ensure their runners have a bit of 'previous' at the track.

But what about the riders. How important to them is previous experience, particularly in the big races? Massively, one would imagine, and not just in terms of getting to know the track and its idiosyncracies.

Mickael Barzalona famously won the Derby at the first attempt on Pour Moi, but he was a young rider brimming with confidence, riding an exceptional talent, and too young to appreciate how big a deal it was.

Surely the confidence derived from riding regularly in races like the Derby and Oaks has to be a big plus. And the boost given by actually winning one of them will be even bigger, for it will allow the rider to make choices that a less experienced rider might be afraid to risk.

The jockeys due to take part in this week's Classics have wide-ranging experience.

Take the Derby. At one end of the scale we have Frankie Dettori, Kieren Fallon and Ryan Moore. At the other end are the likes of Sean Levey, who will be among those riding in the race for the first time.

Fallon is acknowledged as a supreme rider of the track, and his booking for Across The Stars sparked plenty of interest. He had already won the Oaks twice when he landed his first Derby and has now captured seven Epsom Classics in total; Dettori, who rides Wings Of Desire, did not win the Derby until his 15th attempt but has now won it twice, as has Moore, who won on his fifth ride, Workforce, then again on Ruler Of The World two years later.

Levey, who has ridden only 15 times at the track in the last five years, gaining one win, is at the extreme of the lower end when it comes to Derby experience.

Surprisingly, Paul Hanagan, Silvestre de Sousa and Andrea Atzeni - two champions and a potential future champion - are not far ahead though, as all three have ridden in the race just once before.

Hanagan is an Oaks winner, while Atzeni has won a St Leger and De Sousa a Dubai World Cup. Nobody can say they lack big-race temperament or experience, but the Derby is something else.

Previous winners often win again one day, given the material, while for most the race will forever be elusive. Graham Dench

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2016
Words:444
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