Pick 6: Unbeaten Morston tops six worst Derby winners.
Racing Post historian John Randall with a personal view on the least illustrious post-war winners of the premier Classic
IT would be idle to pretend that the Derby roll of honour consists entirely of superstars, for in only 23 of the 58 post-war seasons has the Epsom winner been the champion three-year-old colt.
The others owe their place in history to luck, precocity or opportunism in taking advantage of a weak field.
The following six underline that point with great emphasis, for, based on the quality of their best career performances, they are the worst horses to win the Derby since World War II.
1 Morston 1973
On the face of it, a colt who retires as an unbeaten Derby winner deserves an honoured place in racing history, but strictly on form Morston, who won both his career starts, was the worst horse to triumph in the premier Classic since Spion Kop in 1920.
Morston scored decisively on his racecourse debut in the Godstone Plate at Lingfield in May, 1973, and, in a very poor field for the Derby the following month, the 25-1 shot led approaching the final furlong and held on by half a length from Cavo Doro. He was the second Derby winner for owner-breeder-trainer Arthur Budgett - the first had been the colt's half-brother Blakeney - but injury prevented him from running again and fulfilling his potential.
2 Oath 1999
The 1999 Derby field contained a great champion - not the winner, Oath, who recorded his only Pattern victory when beating Daliapour by a length and three-quarters, but the favourite, Dubai Millennium, who suffered his only defeat when finishing ninth. The Henry Cecil-trained Oath, who had previously won the Listed Dee Stakes, had only one more race - when he injured a knee in the King George and beat only one home.
3 Blakeney 1969
The first of Arthur Budgett's Derby winners, Blakeney was lucky to score in 1969 because the best horse in the field, Prince Regent, finished third after receiving an incompetent ride. That French colt subsequently had Blakeney back in fourth when winning the Irish Derby. If Blakeney had not improved as a four-year-old - coming second (to Nijinsky) in the King George and fifth in the Arc - then he, and not his half-brother Morston, would have headed this list.
4 Kris Kin 2003
Kris Kin won last year's Derby only because the race comes too early in the season for it to be a true championship test. The Dee Stakes winner, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, scored well enough at Epsom, but he never won again and the best horse in the field turned out to be
third-placed Alamshar. The latter trounced his King George rivals, including Kris Kin, who ran the race of his life to be third.
5 Quest For Fame 1990
Quest For Fame was only the second- or third-best three-year-old colt trained by Roger Charlton for Khalid Abdullah in 1990 (behind Deploy and, perhaps, Sanglamore) and was beaten on merit by Belmez in the Chester Vase, but he met a poor field in the Derby and won by three lengths from Blue Stag. He was kept in training until the age of five and twice finished third in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
6 Lavandin 1956
The worst overseas-trained Derby winner of all time (narrowly from Larkspur and Empery), Lavandin failed to brighten a wet day at Epsom in 1956 when he held off Montaval by a neck. Alec Head's colt, who had started favourite on the strength of an unlucky defeat in the Prix Hocquart, flopped on his only subsequent start, in the Grand Prix de Paris.
Morston: injury restricted 1973 Derby winner to just two starts