LETTER: Derby is being greatly undersold.
Gerard West sides with Bill O'Gorman over the premier Classic and says its place in the Triple Crown should be promoted
BILL O'GORMAN (May 31) highlighted the problems
the Derby is encountering, but I fear his good sense will, as usual, fall on the deaf ears of those who control the destiny of the world's greatest race.
I wholeheartedly agree with him that moving the race to Saturday has destroyed its pre-eminence in the sporting calendar to the extent that it is now an also-ran, this year being relegated to a 4.20pm start to accommodate an England football friendly against Iceland.
The Epsom management's argument that it fits in neatly into the half-time slot shows how little it understands the bigger picture in promoting the race.
I touched on this theme on February 29, with the suggestion that the Derby meeting be condensed into one day, with all the major races run on that day.
By moving it back to Wednesday, it would once again be the focus of the
nation's attention and, being the Derby, it would continue to attract large crowds.
Mr O'Gorman made the
interesting suggestion that an entry fee be paid at foal registration, this being the only way of entry into the race.
This is a good idea, as the Derby is not just any other richly endowed race, it is the premier Classic, and supplementary entries cheapen its status.
The second entry stage should be after the Craven meeting, when trainers are in a much better position to
assess the merits of their horses. Should there be a surfeit of entries by the final declaration stage, a minimum rating rule should apply.
To expand on his idea of
entry fee at birth, I would suggest a special entry fee, to
encompass all three Classics, with 30 per cent going to each race, and the remaining ten per cent either being distributed to Classic trials, from the Craven to the Great Voltigeur, or
being used as a bonus for any horse who wins all three races. The fee would be redeemable to the breeder should the horse make the line-up.
At a stroke, breeders would be encouraged to breed more staying-type horses, and
interest in the Triple Crown would be increased.
The Triple Crown has been a great hobby-horse of mine since I saw Nijinsky achieve
it 34 years ago and, as much as I dislike American racing
for its blandness, I have to
admire the enthusiasm for the Triple Crown.
The fact that Smarty Jones
attracted more than 8,000
people to watch a workout at Philadelphia Park speaks
volumes in a country where knowledge and love of the thoroughbred is much less than in Britain.
The Derby, which is the
jewel in our racing crown, should not be promoted as just that but as the stepping- stone to the `impossible dream', the Triple Crown.
Goring by Sea