Derby glory beckons without the fun of the fair

London (AFP) –


The Epsom Derby may be taking place without the traditional funfair as jockey Jim Crowley told AFP but if he wins the blue riband of the turf on Emissary later on Saturday he will not care a jot.

On a day of firsts there will be no spectators -- outside of trainers and owners -- owing to restrictions laid down due to the coronavirus pandemic with a fence being erected round the course to prevent any diehard fans coming in.

It will also be the first time the Oaks and the Derby take place on the same day after both races were postponed from their original date in June.

Both the races could land either riding legend Frankie Dettori's way or Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien.

O'Brien runs six in the Derby as he bids to win it for a record eighth time.

English King remains the favourite for the Derby largely due to having Dettori on board with trainer Ed Walker hoping for a first win in the race with his first runner.

However, he must overcome a terrible draw -- drawn one which last saw Oath prevail in 1999.

Dettori's aura secured him the ride over regular jockey the talented 22-year-old Tom Marquand.

Owner Bjorn Nielsen has dreamt of breeding and owning the Derby winner ever since he grew up in Epsom and knows Dettori well as the Italian has partnered his great stayer Stradivarius to three successive Ascot Gold Cup triumphs.

Should 49-year-old Dettori triumph he will have won all the English classics at least three times.

"It is a big blow for Tom," Walker said.

"I did say to him the only danger to him riding at Epsom was if Frankie was available.

"Tom is a bright talent and Bjorn mulled it over a lot but with his connection with Frankie and Stradivarius he decided to go with him.

"I said to Tom in five to 10 years time I will be knocked for taking you off him as by then you will be a multiple champion jockey."

- 'No more Christmas presents!' -

Despite being so badly drawn -- no horse has won from there over the 1 1/2 mile distance in 69 races since 2006 -- Walker believes his horse is in prime condition.

"He is ready to go, he has been in good form on the gallops," said Walker.

"He will be helped by there being no crowd but then that should be the case for the other 15 runners."

Kameko poses the greatest danger on form as he comes to the race as the winner of the mile classic the 2000 Guineas.

His trainer Andrew Balding was not even born when his father Ian trained the great Mill Reef to win in 1971 in the race he told AFP is the 'Holy Grail of Racing'.

Kameko would be the 38th horse to achieve the 2000 Guineas/Derby double but first since Camelot in 2012.

Camelot's trainer O'Brien's most favoured runner in the betting market is Russian Emperor even though first choice jockey Ryan Moore has opted for Mogul.

The fairytale win, though, would be if Martin Dwyer won on Pyledriver trained by his father-in-law Willie Muir.

Dwyer has already tasted Derby success guiding home Sir Percy back in 2006.

"I am delighted to have another shot at it," said 45-year-old Dwyer.

"He must have a great chance.

"It would make it extra special to win for William.

"I hope I don't mess it up as there will be no more Christmas presents!"

The Oaks looks like a straight fight between Dettori on Frankly Darling and O'Brien's 1000 Guineas champion Love.

Love would emulate her stablemate Minding in 2016 if she achieves the double.