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Epsom Derby: Top 5 performances down the years

| 03.06.2014

The 235th running of the Epsom Derby is less than a week away and with so many predicting a sensational show from ante-post favourite Australia we look back at five of the best Epsom performances down the years.


Like Cecil, Shergar gave who was then merely Michael Stoute his first of what is currently four Derby victories in a manner unlikely to be repeated for another century.

The previous largest winning distance was eight lengths but that was extended by two by Sir Michael’s mighty colt making his starting odds of 10/11f go down as one of the most generous prices ever offered.

When Walter Swinburn hit the front of a strung-out field after Tattenham Corner his partner looked to all intents and purpose as if he had just joined the race such was the ease he was travelling compared to his rivals.

A light shake of the reigns later and the race was put to bed in a matter of strides with Swinburn able to ease to a canter at the line to the delight of a rapturous Epsom crowd.

Shergar remains the most talked about horse in the history of the sport after being stolen two years later by gunmen.

Although the superstar was never found again he remains one of the greatest horses to have ever graced the race track and in particular Epsom with that unforgettable performance.

Slip Anchor1985

Steve Cauthen had said before the race that he thought Slip Anchor was the best horse he had ever sat on and the ice-cool American rode him with such confidence as he partnered Henry Cecil’s charge to a rare pillar-to-post victory.

It was the first of what would be four Derbys for the late training great and none were as impressive with Slip Anchor taking his lead of four lengths to seven around Tattenham Corner to set-up the most decisive Epsom success since Shergar four years earlier.

Sent off the 9/4 favourite there was no shortage of seemingly credible opposition to Cauthen’s partner but they were given no chance to make an impression and Slip Anchor finished the year rated the best racehorse in Europe before being retired to stud.

Galileo 2001

The Ballydoyle colt has become a Coolmore legend after becoming one of the go-to stallions in the world but that position was only guaranteed after a scintillating performance in the 2001 Derby.

Sent off the 11/4 joint favourite with eventual runner-up Golan it was considered to be one of the most wide-open renewals in years but was quickly turned into a one horse affair as Mick Kinane once again scorched clear to win by three-and-a-half-lengths.

The way Galileo went past Mr Combustible and Perfect Sunday with two furlongs left to run will live long in the memory of many and of all our entries none will have more of an impact on the future of the race.

Motivator 2005

The son of Montjeu was backed into 3-1 favouritism to maintain his unbeaten record and those who steamed into Michael Bell’s star were able to count their winnings long before the winning post.

Johnny Murtagh had the Racing Post Trophy and Dante Stakes winner in the perfect position as the field entered the home straight and he accelerated away in the fashion the style he had travelled promised to score by five lengths.

Unfortunately for the sport that was the last time racing fans got to see that type of performance as he failed to sparkle on his following three runs of the season before starting what has been an excellent career at stud.

Sea The Stars 2009

Despite winning the 2000 Guineas in convincing style just a month before Sea The Stars was as big as 11/4 for victory such was the vintage crop of challengers that went to post for the 2009 renewal.

However, supporters of John Oxx’s stable star had few moments of concern as after taking a keen hold early Mick Kinane soon had the son of Cape Cross on the bridle and he was clearly going better than anything as he and favourite Fame and Glory reeled in long time leader Golden Sword.

Although the winning margin was only one-and-three-quarter-lengths at the line Kinane had the race secured by the furlong pole despite a host of fast finishers coming from behind.

Several of the horses beaten that day went on to have their own days in the sun but none could compare to Sea The Stars who went on to add the Eclipse, Juddmonte, Irish Champion Stakes and most notably the Arc de Triomphe before starting what is becoming a hugely lucrative and increasingly successful second career as a stallion.

The Christopher Tsui-owned legend became the first horse since Nashwan in 1989 to win the Guineas, Derby and Eclipse in the same season and is widely regarded as one of the best horses of all time.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Sam Foster