Derby Day 2019

The Derby is an extraordinary broadcast to be involved in. For it is part Cup Final, part Boat Race, part Trooping of The Colour.

It still retains much of the one-off excitement of the Cup Final which would have only succeeded it as the year’s sporting highlight sometime in the 1930s. It has much of the glorious, exotic absurdity of those sixteen guys heaving along the Thames. And it cannot start until Her Majesty has stepped onto Epsom’s hallowed turf and we have saluted racing’s greatest supporter with the National Anthem.

For me to be involved again, this time with the brilliant ITV Racing team, seems a piece of over generous good fortune. To think that I first picnicked on the Downs when the Queen’s horse Aureole flashed through to be second in the 1953 Derby on a sunny Saturday just four days on from the soggy Tuesday when the world celebrated the Coronation.

By 1971 I was an ex-jockey interviewing Jimmy Tarbuck before Mill Reef beat Linden Tree and on TV and in the press I have been involved in every Derby since. Contrary to popular rumour I was not around when William Frith did his iconic ‘Derby Day’ painting in the 1850s but I hope you like the piece I wrote about it and the Derby story which is now up on this website.

So too is the report I wrote for the Sunday Times. It is bordering on the absurd when one trainer saddles not only the winner but six out of the first eight. However, that’s not Aidan O’Brien’s fault and I hope my piece does him some justice.

When of the most satisfying moments for me about this Derby Day was seeing the Queen greet Lester Piggott and unveil the life size bronze statue which will stand in tribute on the Epsom lawn. Nine of these Willie Newton sculptures have been commissioned to mark Lester’s nine Derby triumphs with future unveilings to come at Ascot, York and Newmarket.  I have been involved with the project for some time and it was very special to witness racing’s two most famous personalities once again together on Derby Day.

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