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Epsom Derby: Who'll win the big race tomorrow?

It's Oaks Day. Looking over a packed picnicked hill this afternoon, it seems strange to reflect that only a year has passed since the spotted cap of Richard Kingscote on Desert Crown thundered down this home straight. The 2022 Derby was Desert Crown's third start, and we'd have to wait almost another twelve months for his next: a second at Sandown last month, losing out to our ambassador, Jim Crowley, in the Brigadier Gerard. But if last year's Derby was marked by one loss (that of nine-time hero Lester Piggott) this year's is surely run in memory of our late queen, who was absent from this pageant but a few times in her reign.

This edition comes, too, at a time of touring for the sport's heroes. Our ambassador, Frankie Dettori, is seeking a perfect Derby finale on his Farewell Tour, while a redemption seeking Oisin Murphy mounts Dante winning The Foxes, looking to follow Desert Crown's path and give trainer Andrew Balding his first win. This is a race his father won with Mill Reef in 1971, and Mill Reef's victory came a year after Nijinsky's, on leg two of his Triple Crown. Were we, critics wondered, in for another Triple Crown shot with O'Brien's Auguste Rodin (the first for over fifty years, though Camelot came close)? Not so, as he came undone in the Newmarket bog.

But we seem happy to forgive Auguste that unfortunate third last, and the Ballydoyle hope still stands a good chance in tomorrow's rush for the winning post. If competition comes, indeed, it comes hurtling only in the form of Military Order, a 1 1/4 length winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial, run this year on the all-weather. Could Passenger, too, prove threatening, though, as he continues a fast moving journey through the racing calendar? Denied a passage at York, Richard Kingscote and Sir Michael Stoute look longingly for the Derby double. Tom Marquand arrives from a winter in hospital down under, hopping aboard Waipiro in red and black stripes, while King Of Steel gives Kevin Stott his first Derby ride, in what's been a stellar start to the season for Amo Racing.

And then, of course, who could leave out the cool comfort of Jessie Harrington, bridging the jump-flat rift with effortless serenity? Not often can a trainer claim a Cheltenham Gold Cup, a near miss in an Aintree Grand National, and a genuine chance in the Epsom Derby. But with Sprewell, that handsome victor of the Leopardstown Derby Trial, the time, surely, has come for this cancer-battling Irishwoman. A more emotional result would certainly be difficult to conceive. But then, this is the pinnacle of British racing... a day dreams are yearly made and broken. It's the day the nation goes racing, the world watches, and the history book is opened, added to, and oh so powerfully adjusted.

If you're unable to join us in person this year, you can listen to the Derby on BBC Radio 5 Live from 1:30pm, and watch all the day's action on ITV from 12:30pm.


For 2023


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