The Investec Derby Festival is the biggest week of the year for us and we have an owners’ party on Derby day. We make quite a big thing of it and we’re certainly not alone in doing so. There’s certainly a buzz about the whole place as Epsom is the focus of the racing calendar for the week, so it’s great to be a part of it all.
People are continuing to visit, too — attendance was solid with 36,000 racegoers on Saturday, 1 June, and many thousands more were on the hill. It shows that the Derby is a true spectacle that will hopefully continue to hold a special place in the world of sport.
Over the past 20 years, I think the town and the racing community have become a bit disconnected. This year, attempts have been made to return the Derby Festival to prominence with events and concerts organised to celebrate it. We need to build on this in future years to try to strengthen the bonds between the town and the sport.
The Derby itself was an incredibly exciting one, with five horses in contention running into the final furlong. The fact there were so many horses finishing close together would indicate that Anthony Van Dyck is not a stand-out winner, but you can’t have a superstar every year. It was certainly a good performance to win from where he was — a long way back going into Tattenham Corner. Only time will tell whether he’s a very good racehorse or one of the more average Derby winners.
So close yet so far
As an Epsom trainer, our dream is to have a runner with a chance in the Derby. This hasn’t happened yet, but we did have runners on both days of the meeting in the supporting £50,000 handicaps. Hateya ran a blinder in the concluding race on Friday, 31 May, when flying home late after having to switch to the outside — just failing to catch the front-running Corazon Espinado.
At the start of the day, we’d have happily taken second in a big handicap on Oaks day, but to have been an unlucky-in-running narrow second, who would have won in another five yards, is a little frustrating. It’s one of those times when you end up feeling both pleased and gutted. At least we were beaten by another Epsom trainer, Simon Dow, and it was a great showcase for Epsom as a training centre.
Unfortunately, Harrogate blew his chance at the start on Saturday when a bit slow away from the stalls, but his owners still had a fantastic day out with a runner on Derby day.
There is a great history in the racecourse and local stables, but there have also been plenty of difficult times over the years with a falling population of horses and trainers.
The wider future of Epsom seems to be a positive one. However, there are a number of yards where the infrastructure is falling behind the training centres that we’re competing with — we need some more inward investment.
Our own situation is fairly well-known locally in that we’re at the end of a long planning process with the council after the application to build a new stable yard and complex, along with a residential development for new apartments. It is likely to be decided in the next few weeks, and for us it’s hugely important that we get the go-ahead.
If not, South Hatch Stables will no longer remain a racing yard and our future will be very uncertain.
Ref Horse & Hound; 6 June 2019