Anatomy of a Derby Day

You may already know I prefer the jumps. I went to Epsom last year, of course, and quite enjoyed it, but I’ve never been to the Derby. So on Saturday I decided it was time for me to get properly acquainted with this thing they call flat racing (in a sat on the sofa kind of way) and in particular its biggest race of the year. This is my account of what followed:-

10:19 – Settle down for the Morning Line. Wow, one and a half hours! May have to do some on x6. Nick Luck – an assured pair of hands, he does it well. Opening piece about breeding a Derby winner is superb, and finishes with such a cute foal. Okay, Channel 4, you got me.

A future Derby winner?

A future Derby winner?

10:24 – Now it’s Rishi on the sofa in a nice mauve jumper. He’s alright is Rishi. And Pricewise is there, which is good, and Emma, which is fine, and AP, which can only put a dour slant on proceedings. These three clearly didn’t get the memo and aren’t wearing jumpers. Good on you, Rishi, for holding the line.

10:28 – Out on the course is Mick, who looks to be in the black jumper he was wearing at Wentworth. Christ! What on earth is Tanya wearing? It’s as awkward and jarring as her patter. “Let’s head back to Rishi to…see more news” she stutters.

10:31 – First sight of Ulysses who I astutely backed at 40/1 just before he hosed up at Newbury three weeks ago. Now 8/1. Smart money, see? Okay, it wasn’t me, I’d been given the nod by one of Clive’s colleagues called Big Dave. Come to think of it, I’ve never met Big Dave. Could it just be Clive having a laugh? Ulysses is eating hay, lots of it, and I’m becoming worried about his diet. This is just hours before the big race and nobody seems to care that he’s having this huge breakfast! Perhaps just an energy bar, or a protein shake instead?

10:37 – Now Frankie and AP are riding the course. Frankie seems to be wearing a teddy bear around his neck; I’m not sure why. We get it guys – it’s uphill, and twisty, and turny, and cambered. There really is no reason to run the biggest race in the calendar over this awkward terrain, but they do, and I kind of like it.

11:03 – Pick up Youngest from a sleepover. Someone told me recently that two thirds of the air in your lungs is stale, so I did some deep slow breathing in the car – brought on chest pains. I can’t get a heart attack from breathing, that would be ridiculous! Have to ignore these things – they happen all the while when you turn 40. If you investigated every ache and pain you’d never leave the doctors surgery. Realised that I haven’t thought about the Derby once in a 25 minute car journey. If it was the Cheltenham Festival I wouldn’t have thought about anything else. Resolve to think about it more during the day, just to get into it.

12:18 – Secured the Racing Post for some serious form studying, but have been reading it now for twenty minutes without looking at the form. JP McManus has had a claim for a $5 million tax refund rejected after winning $17 million in a three-day backgammon game. That’s quite a game of backgammon.

12:31 – Study the form for one minute and place a random Yankee on the afternoon’s racing with Ulysses in the final leg. The accumulator is 26,519/1. That would endear me more to the Derby.

16:28 – Not thought about the Derby for four hours, but my internal alarm tells me it’s time to tune in, like the way you always wake a minute before the alarm goes off for an important trip. Turn on Sky+. Aarrgggghhhhhhhh! “Your Sky+HD box isn’t getting a satellite signal.” Think fast. Computer. 4OD? No – need to register, will take too long. BBC website? Radio feed – best I’m going to do. Ulysses mentioned once near start and once in middle. Harzand wins. I can see why TV is considered better than radio, when it sodding works. It really is hard to get any idea of what’s happening on the radio.

16:41 – Find that the whole recording has “Failed”. Look up the results – Ulysses finished 12th. I knew he shouldn’t have had all that hay. The other selections in my Yankee finished 9th, 7th and 12th. Perhaps they had big breakfasts too? Or perhaps I should have done more than one minute of form studying? My 40/1 Derby winner, along with my discovery of the joys of flat racing, will have to wait another year.