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27th May 2024 3:47 am

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

If it’s June 1st it must be time for a Derby Dinner.

These Donors Are AMAZING Thank You

William S – MEJi – Peter N – Nigel B – Ken C – Mark S – James D – William M – Fiona M – Julian A – Jonathan H – Mrs V.M – Pete BN – Gavin C – Thom S – Sarah C – Mark S – Sam H – James R

Let me rush to say that I would have been unable to attend any dinners this week  – even if I had been invited. Which I wasn’t. This is not a cry of pain from Norman Kneesup No-Mates; it is only through a combination of events beyond my control that I cannot leave Lambourn. Instead, I will await the first phone calls to tell me that all is well – or that drones have been seen over Derby’s Newmarket estates as HMS Hood attempts another coup de grace. These days you never know what might happen. For the two readers who have never been to any standard racing dinner to celebrate a big race, the oft-followed form is this.

Arrive, say your What Hos. and spend multiple quids on raffle tickets. Drink. Talk to chums. Realise you haven’t got enough tickets and buy more. Sit down for dinner. Try to be brave, as the food at these things can often be surprising. Last year, I had one Derby Dinner where the food was delicious – mainly because I was in my own club, and the excellent Chef d’Equipe is astonishingly capable, charming and attentive. He can never be told these things, of course, as excessive demands are always the outcome of such praise. At another, but in a frightfully swanky hotel, it was indifferent – at best. Indeed I had a bread roll that you could have used as a priest on a struggling muntjac. It makes no matter because you are with chums and enjoying yourself and the drink is flowing.

But I digress… you have eaten, you have drunk and are possibly even getting squiffy, and your pockets are stuffed metaphorically with raffle tickets. Coffee is served. A speech or two is made, sometimes involving the form, and then a drawer is made. This can be done ceremoniously and sometimes not. At this point – and always a sign of a well-run beano – a piece of paper arrives on the table showing the names of all the people who have won. Aaah, I hear you say – but what have they won?

A horse, dear one, a horse. They have won a runner in the Celebrated race. For argument’s sake, there were 1500 raffle tickets at a tenner a pop, so the total kitty was £15,000. And as there are only ten runners in the Celebrated Race, only ten of the guests have a horse. But now it gets complicated because they now auction the horses off.

So let us suppose I have drawn Dobbin in the Sweep. Dobbin is auctioned and, being marginally fancied for the Celebrated Race is sold for £6,000. As the owner of Dobbin, I receive 50%, and the other £3k goes into the pool, making the pool £18k. From that pool, at the end of the evening, the organisers will deduct x% for the charity the dinner is supporting, and then the balance will be divided between the first three places and the last one home – with, say, 60% to the winner and lower amounts to the others. Yes, Cherie, you have seen the secondary and oft-forgotten benefit. You could buy Dobbin yourself – and only pay 50% of the bid price! However, you are a braver man than me, Gunga, if you only bought £100 of raffle tickets and were getting a 30-1 return, guaranteed.

It is also in the thrilling bidding that some surprises can still be found. These events are heaving with racing pros, and I have seen trainers bidding for a  rival’s runner and owners bidding against their trainers. Historically in the days when bookmakers were people of conviction and not just dullard accountants, and when the Betfairs didn’t exist, these dinners would be the place for some useful laying off – because there was sufficient liquidity and risk-takers in situ. it was also a place for some of the major players to get a hefty bet on at sensible prices.

This brings me finally to the point. Was I at a Derby Dinner – where would I be hoping for a draw, and where might I be having a bid?

As you have the Rabbit Pilaf en brioche au Creme d’Andouillete consider the running news story this has become. It has the real possibility of being a truly major and uncontrollable riot with 200+ yobbos and 1000 of their scummy anarchist cousins from Extinction Anarchists of the Vegan Glue is For Pussies Society. A non-stop fight from 12:30 on the Downs; bring your own Drones. Hopefully, the traditional travelling community who often occupy the Downs for Derby week will also be there in some numbers. Those boys are always keen on a good cock or dogfight and are not necessarily strangers to badger-baiting. Of course, you can’t say so because that would either be considered a hate crime or, should you attend the odd Northern sporting occasion, considered cultural assimilation. Personally, I hope they give them seven kinds of hell and that the 3000 Old Bill averts their eyes for 30 minutes.

Sensibly, however, young Andrew Cooper – England’s finest Clerk of The Course – will ignore me and will water sufficiently to produce no faster than Good ground – he will definitely not be producing fast ground, despite the current drying conditions. The last thing we need is any jarring.

As for me…

I have an early ticket at 40/1 for WAIPIRO, and he has the possibility of reversing placings with MILITARY ORDER from the Lingfield Derby Trial. My lad was beaten 1¼l on the day, having been pushed wide on the bend, in a race that I felt was significantly impacted by not being run on Turf, but on the AWT. The Godolphin runner was immediately made favourite, while Waipiro came into a 16-1 chance after just three career runs. My fear now is that he can get a bit warm at home and delays to the race might not be a benefit. Ed Walker told me that he was likely to go down in a red hood to help keep a lid on him a bit because – “he was a bit noisy at the start at Lingfield. He is generally a very relaxed horse and a professional horse.” He’s also very capable of delivering this for the diffidently charming Walker.

I also backed PASSENGER at 16s despite his not having been entered at the time, but then what’s £85k between chums? Owned by the Niarchos family, he made a taking debut when scoring in a mile maiden at Newmarket on April 20. Then, because of the heavy ground, he was withdrawn from the Dee Stakes, so they paid £14k to supplement PASSENGER for The Dante at York. Upped to an extended 10 furlongs and racing keenly early on his second start, jockey Richard Kingscote found his path blocked when attempting to mount a challenge two furlongs from home. Once seeing daylight, the 9-4 favourite stayed on nicely and forced a dead heat for third, just a length and a half behind The Foxes, who enjoyed the run of the race. PASSENGER will bid to give Stoutey a seventh Derby success following victories with Shergar (1981), Shahrastani (1986), Kris Kin (2003), North Light (2004), Workforce (2010) and Desert Crown. If The Dante is the key to this year’s Derby (not for the first time), then you’d have to consider the 1-2-3.


Rewatching the race for the umpteenth time, I do wonder if he’s really got the pedal to the metal or whether he’s a 10f.  Anyway, I’ve got him at a sensible price.

I have also backed ARTISTIC STAR because he does have talent and seemed to be value at 40s.

What would I be pleased to draw: I would not be upset with SPREWELL or WHITE BIRCH.

What would I keep if I had drawn them:? WAIPIRO and PASSENGER. Stop staring at the film and remember who trains him!

Pip Pip and Bon Appetit


1 ADELAIDE RIVER (IRE) 1223-2 A P O’Brien 24 105 97 117
  After Chester – ” the return to 1m2f on better ground might suit better, so he may be more a French Derby type.”
2 ALDER (IRE) 413-12 Donnacha Aidan O’Brien 23 104 103 120
  After Chester – “-has improved with every outing and his effort can be upgraded a touch, conceding the first run to the winner in a falsely run race before hanging left in the home straight. There’s enough in his pedigree to think he’ll stay 1m4f, but, like the winner, he’ll have to improve on what he’s achieved so far if he is to figure at Epsom.
3 ARREST (IRE) 3112-1 John & Thady Gosden 24 115 110 129 Frankie Dettori
  After Chester (bt 1) – “On this belated reappearance, he had conditions to suit and forged clear in the straight, deliberately kept to the outside, putting himself firmly in the Derby picture. He shows plenty of knee action so it remains to be seen whether he’d handle quick ground at Epsom, but he was promoted to favouritism in some lists – and made a best-price 6-1 – around a couple of hours after this race.
4 ARTISTIC STAR (IRE) 1-1 Ralph Beckett 18 98 106 110 Rob Hornby
  After Sandown: – winner of an extended mile maiden on soft at Nottingham last October, made it 2-2 on this return, seeing out the longer trip well and marking himself down as a potentially really useful colt. He’s in the Derby and King Edward VII, though his trainer feels the Epsom Classic could come too soon.
5 AUGUSTE RODIN (IRE) 2111-0 A P O’Brien 28 117 106 130
  After Newmarket: – -, ready winner of the Vertem Futurity when last seen, shouldn’t have had any issue with the ground changing, his Doncaster win having come on heavy, but he failed to pick up at all when asked, dropping away as though something was amiss. He did get slightly interfered with by stablemate Little Big Bear early, but not enough to account for this dismal display.
6 COVENT GARDEN (IRE) 9218-3 A P O’Brien 21 97 79 105
  After Naas: – got no luck in running on his Curragh debut, but he won well enough this time. Heffernan kept it simple as he was always close to the pace, and while it did take him time to pick up and win his race, he did it decisively in the end. It was better than workmanlike, albeit he might have been expected to do it a little more easily, and he had some sure-fire-looking winners behind him. On better ground and stepped up to 1m, he is likely to improve further.
7 DEAR MY FRIEND 533-18 Charlie Johnston 16 104 101 116
  After York: – t.k.h: in tch w ldrs: prom whn pushed along over 2f out: rdn and wknd fr over 1f out.

After Newcastle: – arrived at the start with blood in his mouth but was deemed fit to race by the vet. He had a few less exposed types to take on, but he arrived highest rated on his 2yo form and, in what was a bit of a messy affair, put his experience to good use, settling despite having been hampered at the start, and coming through to see his race out well. His last start came in the Zetland Stakes and he won’t mind going back up in trip, a Derby trial his likely next stop.

8 DUBAI MILE (IRE) 1121-5 Charlie Johnston 28 114 93 128 Daniel Muscutt
  After Newm: -, runner-up in a four-runner Royal Lodge last autumn and successful in a 1m2f Group 1 in France subsequently, was soon up with the pace and ran well, just getting caught out for a change of gear at a crucial stage. It would be no surprise to see him reappear in the Dante
9 KING OF STEEL (USA) 17- Roger Varian 224 101 74 108 Kevin Stott
  After Donc: who created such a good impression in a Nottingham maiden on debut earlier in the month, found this too much of a jump up in grade at this stage. He’s a fine physical specimen who will be worth another chance next season.
10 MILITARY ORDER (IRE) 41-11 Charlie Appleby 21 111 79 126 William Buick
  After Ling (bt 15): – -is a brother to 2021 Derby winner Adayar and looked a colt of considerable class himself when winning a soft-ground novice at Newbury on reappearance. He more than confirmed that good impression here, handling a different kind of test and showing a good attitude late to assert from another classy colt. Now 4-1 joint-favourite (from 11-2) with Paddy Power for the Derby, he heads to Epsom with major claims.
11 PASSENGER (USA) 13 Sir Michael Stoute 16 112 111 125 Richard Kingscote
  After York: – the Wood Ditton winner, missed the previous week’s Dee Stakes at Chester on account of soft ground, so was supplemented for this for 14,000GBP. He didn’t get a fair crack at it and it’s possible he’d have won with a clear run. In any case, he looks capable of building on this, so connections must be tempted to add him to the Derby field – that’d cost an additional 85,000GBP. The trainer’s last three Derby winners ran in this, with Workforce (2010) finishing runner-up on his second career start prior to his Epsom triumph.
12 SAN ANTONIO (IRE) 53-11 A P O’Brien 23 106 107 121
  After Chester Bt 2: – -is a progressive sort who had the run of the race and turned in his best effort upped in grade to win a messy contest, providing his trainer with a 10th win in the race. There’s a reasonable chance he’ll stay 1m4f and his Derby odds were clipped to 25-1 (from 50-1) but, although he’s a likeable sort who appeals as the type to win in Pattern company, he’ll have to raise his game by some way if he’s to follow up in the Epsom Classic.
13 SPREWELL (IRE) 42-11 Mrs John Harrington 27 112 91 128
  After Leop: – -certainly put himself into the reckoning as a Derby contender with a decisive victory. Having won a useful conditions contest at Naas on his return, he handled the step up in grade and trip with aplomb. Shane Foley seemed to have those in front of him covered at the top of the straight and his mount quickly settled matters. Out of Grade 1 winner over 1m2f, he should stay 1m4f given that he relaxes well and he’s a fine specimen who should continue to improve with more experience. He has yet to race on ground quicker than soft.
14 THE FOXES (IRE) 911-21 Andrew Balding 16 113 115 126 Oisin Murphy
  After York: – last year’s Royal Lodge winner, built on his reappearance second in the Craven, suited by the step up in trip and quicker ground. He didn’t strike as a Derby winner but he is a brother to 1m6f Listed scorer Perotan. He’s closely related to Bangkok, who was 12th of 13 in the 2019 Derby for these connections. Coral went 12-1 from 20s for Epsom.
15 WAIPIRO (IRE) 6-12 Ed Walker 21 108 58 121 Tom Marquand
  After Ling: – the striking winner of a Newmarket novice in April, was forced to miss the Newmarket Stakes recently, on account of his rider getting injured going to the start, but he confirmed himself a classy individual, travelling well and pulling clear of the third. He’s in the Derby, being cut to 16-1 from 33s with Paddy Power and he’s also in the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot.
16 WHITE BIRCH 51-12 John Joseph Murphy 16 112 114 125 Colin Keane
  After York: (2nd to 14) – winner of the Group 3 Ballysax on heavy ground at Leopardstown, again raced out the back after a slow start before finishing well, handling the much quicker going. He’s probably not going to win the Derby, but there looks like being more to come from him.


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