Conor Creamer picks out the five greatest Epsom Derby winners of all time.
The Group One Epsom Derby is the biggest prize in British flat racing and is widely recognised as the finest three-year-old race in Europe. It is the classic contest that each trainer, owner and breeder seeks to win. A number of the sport’s greatest thoroughbred racehorses have won the Derby on route to securing rich legacies in the game. The unique nature of the Epsom Derby represents the biggest test of the thoroughbred’s temperament and physicality.
Here we take a look at five of the greatest winners to claim the Epsom Derby crown.
The Vincent O’Brien-trained Nijinsky enjoyed a phenomenal three-year-old campaign throughout 1970. Unbeaten at the age of two, Nijinsky started his campaign by winning the Gladness Stakes at the Curragh before storming to victory in the 2000 Guineas. The son of Northern Dancer then arrived at Epsom Downs surrounded by uncertain stamina questions. However, Nijinsky travelled beautifully throughout the contest before drawing clear inside the final furlong to win by two-and-a-half lengths under jockey Lester Piggott. The three-year-old colt went to win the Irish Derby and King George before landing the St Leger at Doncaster to become the first horse in 35 years to win the coveted Triple Crown.
In terms of dominant Derby performances, Shergar’s win in 1981 ranks amongst the very best. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, Shergar showcased immense potential when winning both the Sandown and Chester classic trials, though connections could not have imagined the electricity their colt would show at Epsom Downs on June 3rd. Ridden by a fresh-faced Walter Swinburn, in his first Derby outing, Shergar started as the odds-on favourite before producing a stunning 10-length victory, the widest in the history of the race. Settled comfortably in midfield, Shergar travelled very well throughout before moving to the front and well clear inside the final three furlongs. It was a performance that cemented Shergar as a household name and one in which later dominated news headlines when victim of a notorious kidnapping in 1983.
In 2001, Galileo won a fantastic renewal of the Epsom Derby when the 11/4 joint-favourite alongside Golan. Aidan O’Brien’s striking son of Sadler’s Wells powered through the 1m4f classic to win by three-and-a-half lengths and become one of Coolmore’s most dominant Derby winners. The great horse later won the Irish equivalent and Ascot’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes before progressing into one of the world’s leading stallions at stud. Galileo has since been crowned Britain and Ireland’s leading sire on seven occasions since 2008 and is widely-regarded as being the standout stallion for Derby prospects in the breeding industry.
Sea The Stars (2009)
Sea The Stars arrived at the Epsom Derby in 2009 followed by numerous stamina doubts and a strong opposition from trainer Aidan O’Brien. The Ballydoyle handler fielded six of the 12 contenders in the race, though ultimately failed to prevent Sea The Stars from scoring a decisive Derby win. The John Oxx-trained colt then went on to cap off a memorable three-year-old in winning six Group One’s including the 2000 Guineas and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Workforce’s success in the 2010 renewal of the Epsom Derby will live long in the race’s illustrious memory. Ridden by jockey Ryan Moore at a starting price of 6/1, Workforce powered to a seven-length victory for trainer Sir Michael Stoute. It was the third-largest winning distance in Derby history and smashed the race’s record winning time. The firm ground and strong pace was tailor-made for Workforce who never stopped quickening inside the final three furlongs to cement himself as one of the most taking victors the Derby has ever seen.