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Heads - and odd tales! GREAT DAYS AT EPSOM Lord Derby's luck held on spin of coin.


HOW does a sporting event become world-famous? In the case of the Derby Stakes, it has taken 200 years of thrills, controversy, tragedy, drama and - in certain cases - downright skullduggery.

Although the race has become more respectable over the years as the control of the Jockey Club has increased, it is rare for a year to go by without some minor sensation catching the headlines Lord Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury had no idea what they were starting when they tossed a coin to decide What a new mile race to be run on May 4, 1780, should be called.

Lord Derby, whose filly Bridget, won the first running of the Oaks in 1779. called correctly and a new word was added to the English language.

Sir Charles Bunbury hat! his revenge for his horse Diomed bent eight rivals to win the first Derby Stakes.

Lord Derby had to wait until 17S7 to gain his first success with Sir Peter Teazle, and in those early days it was the third Earl of Egremont who had the biggest triumphs winning five Derbys between 17S2 and 1826. the Prince of Wales (later to become George IV saddled Sir Thomas to win in 17SS. But it was over 100 years before the next Royal success, when another Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, took the coveted prize with Persimmon in 1806.

Four years later the Prince repeated the triumph with Diamond Jubilee who like Persimmon had been bred at the Royal stables at Sand-ringham.

The last Royal success, and the only one by A reigning monarh, came in 1909 when Minoru won in Edward's colours. The nearest Queen Elizabeth has gone to landing the Derby was in 1953, when Aureole finished runner-up.

Most successful trainer in the first 50 years of the Derby was Robert Robson Who turned-out seven winners including four for the third Duke of Grafton.

Only four runners contested the 1784 race-the fewest on record - and In 1801 Eleanor became the first filly to win the Derby and The Oaks. She was owned by Sir Charles Bunbury. Five other fillies have won the Derby, and three of these completed the Oaks double including the last of them Fifinella in 1916.

In 1821 Gustavus become the first grey to win the Derby, and although three others have since triumphed, none have succeeded since Airborne the popular 1846 winner.

The first dead-heat was recorded in 1828, when Cad-land beat The Colonel after a run-off. In 1SS4 Harvester and St. Gattien shared the stakes after the only other Derby dead-heat.

The deceptions and swindles which had plagued racing since its earlies days finally came to a head in 1844, when the four-year-old Running Rein was first past the post in the Derby.

Schemer behind the fraud was Abraham Goodman . and his trainer William Smith. Two horses were made to look alike, even to the extent of scarring them, and by cleverly switching them during the previous season the stage was set for a mammoth coup.

Although Lord Georg Bon-tinck unearthed the plot and warned the Epsom stewards the race went ahead, and Running Rein duly won. Bentinck persuaded the runner up's owner Colonel Peel to object to the winner.

To ensure the real three-year-old Running Rein could not be produced at the hearing, Bentinck had the colt removed from his stable, leaving Goodman with the four-year-old Maccabeaus who had run in the Derby.

Goodman lost, the case and had to flee the country, and thanks to Bentinck the Jockey Club began the sweeping changes which look English racing into a new era of respectability.

The only other Derby winner to be disqualified was Craganour in 1913 - a race which, was also marred by the death of suffragette Miss Emily Davson who threw herself under the hooves of King George V'S colt Anmer at Tattenham Corner.

Craganour lust the race he-cause the Stewards found him guilty of jostling the runner-up Aboyeur. but no action was taken against jocky Johnny Reifff.

Rumours have since-suggeted that the only reason Graganour was deprived of the Derby was because of a feud between his owner Bow-yer Ismsy and senior steward of the day Major Eustace Loder, Whatever the reason Graga-nour lost the race, and victory was awarded to Aboyeur only one of three 100-1 chances to take the prize, the others being Jeddah in 1898 and Signorinetta in 1908.

During the First World War, the Derby was switched to Newmarket for four years, and this policy was. also followed between 1940 and 1945.

In 19SS a series of very fast Derbys culminated in Mahmoud covering the 12 furlong course in 2 mins.. 33.8 sees, for a record speed of 35.06 mph.

In the last 30 years several horses have come close to this time, but now that the course in watered the going in never as baked hard as it was in the 30s. Mahmoud's time will probably stand for some lime yet.

Between the wars, Fred Darling took over as leading Derby trainer gaining seven wins between 1922 and 1941. Including Manny in 1925 who won by the biggest official margin of eight lengths.

The Aga Khan was the most successful owner of this period, .saddling four winners including Mahmoud, while popular actor Tom Wails won in 1932 with April the Fifth.

French horses sained their first success in the race through Gladiateur in 1865, a victory hailed as revenge for Waterloo. But in the past 30 years they, and other other lengers from Ireland, have I done particularly well.

Sir Victor Sassoon picked up four victories between 1953 and 1960, but since then the honours have gone to Ireland with trainer Vincent O'Brien saddling no fewer than five winners - four of them ridden by Lester Piggott.


1949 . . . Nimbus (left), ridden by Charlie Elliott, gets up on The line to win the first Derby decided by the photo-finish camera, bearing French runner Amour Drake and Lord Derby's Swallow Tail.; 1977 . . . The-Minstrel; right) battles on strongly to get the better of Hot Grove, ridden by willie Carson, and provide Lesier Piggott with a record eighth Derby victory.; 1953 - . . At last Sir Gordon Richards rides Pinza into the winners enclosure at Epsom after winning the Cororafion Year Derby si his 28th attempt.; 1954 . . . A year later and it is She turn of 1 9-year-old Lester Piggott to claim his first Derby success or the 33-1 outsider Never Say Die.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:May 24, 2008
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