Epsom Derby: 5 of the best moments EVER – including Sir Percy and a Frankie Dettori double

Paul Binfield runs through his top five best Derby memories ahead of Saturday's Classic.


1987 – Reference Point (Steve Cauthen, Henry Cecil)

When I left school, I worked in an office with a group of guys, including one who would spend hours in the toilet engrossed with the Sporting Life, who helped me get into racing.

The ‘toilet man’ really fancied Reference Point and when he found out I was going to Epsom, asked if I would put £300 on for him.

[An inflation calculator tells me that this is the equivalent of a £720 bet today and I didn’t want to put it all on with one bookie so I placed three £100 bets at average odds of 9-4 with layers on the Hill. I was 19, living at home and my parents would have been horrified if they’d known.

The winner was sent off a well-supported 6-4 favourite and prevailed by a length and a half and although I didn’t personally back him, my friend was delighted with the enhanced odds and gave me a few quid.

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Epsom Derby

1989 – Nashwan (Major Dick Hern, Willie Carson)

Nashwan has already appeared among my favourite Guineas memories so I’m not going to concentrate on his brilliance, but rather Suffolk sorcerer Clive Brittain saddling the runner-up Terimon at the amazing odds of 500-1.

The retired trainer was often accused of ‘tilting at windmills’ during his illustrious career and although he never won the Derby, he still won all four other English Classics as well as a Japan Cup and a Breeders’ Cup Turf.

When punters at Leicester saw Terimon scramble home by a neck in a maiden nine days before the Derby, they could never have dreamed the winner, scoring at the eighth attempt of asking, would only find one horse too powerful at Epsom – and that horse was Nashwan!

Clive was a pure gentleman to deal with – a man on the ‘Sunday morning’ list of handlers meaning he could be contacted anytime, and a brilliant trainer.

Epsom Derby

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2006 – Sir Percy (Martin Dwyer, Marcus Tregoning)

While I worked at Racenews, I had the honour of working with the late racing journalist George Ennor who freelanced for the company at the big meetings and taught me a lot.

George was taken too early on New Year’s Eve in 2005 and six months’ later his friend Victoria Pakenham, wife of Sir Percy’s owner Anthony, was watching their charge win the Derby in one of the best finishes ever in which the first four were separated by a short-head, a head and another short-head.

Mrs Pakenham said afterwards: “I owned a horse called Pelorus with George and the very last conversation I had with him was whether Percy was a Guineas or Derby horse. I think he was looking down and made the difference of that short-head.”

It was also great to see Marcus Tregoning winning as he is always brilliant to deal with and if he rates an animal, it is invariably decent.

Sir Percy

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2007 – Authorized (Frankie Dettori, Peter Chapple-Hyam)

‘Frankie’ is one of the few racing characters that transcend the sport and it was brilliant when the charismatic Italian scooped flat racing’s biggest prize on Newmarket trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Authorized.

A bit like Lester Piggott previously, Frankie’s mounts in the Blue Riband are always popular with punters and a four-length victory in York’s Dante Stakes, considered the principle Derby trial, on his last outing meant the pair went off a furiously-backed 5-4 favourite.

And those backers were in for a treat as Frankie sent his mount on over a furlong from home and they stormed clear impressively to prevail by five lengths from Eagle Mountain.

Frankie was winning the race on his 15th attempt and it would have been a travesty if he never won it. He’s subsequently scored again on Golden Horn in 2015 – not bad for a lad who came to England as a stable lad who couldn’t speak the language.

Authorized Frankie Dettori

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2015 – Golden Horn (Frankie Dettori, John Gosden)

Frankie’s other Derby winner, but not this time because the Italian was on board but because I backed him.

That May I was at York when Golden Horn beat Jack Hobbs by two and three quarter lengths in the Dante.

At the time the winner wasn’t entered in the Derby, but our traders were impressed and made him a 6-4 favourite to win the race (with a run).

One tabloid journalist was astonished by our reaction and messaged me saying: “Whaaaaaat!” and then cynically: “Couldn’t win on Yarmouth beach – best keep it short as Frankie’s likely ride.”

Another firm seemed to agree with them and made Golden Horn 5-2 (with a run) for success. I thought that the difference between 6-4 and 5-2 at the front end of the market was too big and wagered accordingly.

I was right (for once) and I reckon the ‘Horn’ would have gone well at Yarmouth!


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