Epsom memories: A nostalgic look back at 7 horses who dominated this hallowed turf

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  • With the Investec Derby and Investec Oaks taking place tomorrow (4 July), we take a trip down memory lane and reflect on some of the horses who have carved their names into the Epsom history books...

    Nijinsky (1970 Derby)

    Credit: Press Association

    A Canadian-bred, Irish-trained horse, who went on to become a famous and versatile sire. Regarded by many as the greatest Flat horse in Europe during the 20th Century, Nijinsky was the outstanding two-year-old in 1969 when unbeaten in five races. The following season, he became the first horse for 34 years to win the English Triple Crown (the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and St Leger) – a feat that is yet to be repeated.

    Partnered by Lester Piggott, Nijinsky was an 11/8 shot going into the Derby, and his rivals included the French-bred colt Gyr. Nijinsky was held up in the race by Lester as usual, before moving forward in the home straight – by which time Gyr was in front. Two furlongs out, the favourite responded to Lester’s urgings and pulled ahead of Gyr to win by 2½ lengths. The runner-up’s jockey said Nijinsky was “just too good”.

    Nijinsky went on to sire three Derby winners; Golden Fleece (1982), Shahrastani (1986) and Lammtarra (1995), plus 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand. He established the global reputation of his sire Northern Dancer and became the leading sire in Britain and Ireland, and the leading broodmare sire in North America.

    Galileo (2001 Derby)

    Credit: EMPICS Sport

    The 10-time champion stallion won the Classic race in 2001 and has sired three Derby winners including New Approach (2008), Ruler Of The World (2013) and Australia (2014). While two daughters have been victorious in the Oaks – Was (2012) and Minding (2016), plus he sired the superstar Frankel.

    In the Derby, Galileo started 11/4 joint-favourite alongside the 2000 Guineas victor Golan. The field was considered strong but Galileo posted an impressive 3½ length victory over Golan, Tobougg and Mr Combustible. He was considered the best Derby winner in 10 years at the time.

    Mill Reef (1971 Derby)

    Credit: Press Association

    In 1971, Mill Reef proved to be the outstanding middle-distance horse of the year, winning the Derby by two lengths from Linden Tree, the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

    Sadly the following year, Mill Reef broke a foreleg in training. A steel plate was inserted during a six-hour operation and he spent six weeks in plaster. Having made a full recovery, he retired to the National Stud and went on to sire Derby winners Shirley Heights (1978) and Reference Point (1987).

    Lammtarra (1995 Derby)

    Credit: Press Association

    Lammtarra’s Derby triumph in 1995 came following the death of his trainer Alex Scott aged 34, who had always dreamed of Epsom glory. The chestnut was a 14/1 chance to emulate his sire, Nijinsky, 25 years earlier, with Walter Swinburn in the saddle.

    During the race, Lammtarra made up six lengths in the last 1½ furlongs and overtook Tamure in the final furlong, winning by a length. Lammtarra broke the track record that day and retired unbeaten. He was also the first Derby winner to be sired by a Derby winner (Nijinsky, 1970), out of an Oaks winner (Snow Bride, 1989).

    Sea The Stars (2009 Derby)

    Credit: EMPICS Sport

    Sea The Stars shares a dam with fellow Derby victor Galileo in Urban Sea – she foaled Sea The Stars eight years after Galileo. Sea The Stars was magical during the 2009 season, winning six Group Ones and is regarded as one of the all-time greats.

    He won the 2009 Derby despite doubts about his stamina and a strong field. Racing prominently, he reeled in the leader three furlongs out to win the Classic. His jockey, Mick Kinane, described the race as “easy” and like “slow motion”.

    Girl power…

    Enable (2017 Oaks)

    Credit: Press Association

    The John Gosden-trained supermare is a true Epsom gem of the 21st Century, winning the 2017 Oaks in a hailstorm by five lengths. She also created a new race-record of 2min, 34.13sec. She went on to win the Irish Oaks, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (twice), Yorkshire Oaks (twice), Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (twice) and the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchull Downs.

    She has remained in training for 2020 and will aim to win the Prix de l’ Arc de Triomphe for a third time, in October.

    Pretty Polly (1904 Oaks)

    Credit: Topfoto/Press Association Images

    As a three-year-old filly Pretty Polly not only won the Oaks at Epsom but the 1000 Guineas, the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, the St Leger Stakes – completing the Fillies’ Triple Crown – under William Lane.

    Bred and owned by Major Eustace Loder and trained by Peter Gilpin, Pretty Polly won an impressive 22 races from 24 starts.

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