The Derby: Sir Percy wins the race of races

Tregoning's bargain usurps aristocrats in closest finish since 1913 as disaster strikes Horatio Nelson

In a dramatic photo-finish of inches, with the likely result changing frame by flickering frame, stride by stretching stride to the line, the 6-1 shot Sir Percy stuck his head out as the camera clicked and won the 227th Derby by the minimum margin, a short-head. There was not much further between the next three home, Dragon Dancer, Dylan Thomas and Hala Bek. It was the tightest Derby finish since 1913.

But in the wake of yesterday's thrilling denouement came the chilling other side of the sport's spinning coin. Inside the final two furlongs Horatio Nelson, the mount of Kieren Fallon, broke a foreleg, his gallop reduced in an instant to a grotesque stagger. Fallon pulled up and dismounted and the colt was taken from the course in an equine ambulance, but his injuries proved too severe for him to be saved.

But to the victor, the spoils, in this case £740,695. And the reward was a thorough justification of principals. Sir Percy, who is trained by Marcus Tregoning for retired solicitor Anthony Packenham and his wife Victoria, cost just 16,000 guineas as a yearling, back-pocket change in the bloodstock world. Despite his bargain-basement price tag, he proved himself one of last season's top juveniles and after he won the Dewhurst Stakes, telephone-number bids started coming in.

The Newmarket-based Packenhams kept their nerve and kept their young star. And all the faith, judgement and patience have been gloriously rewarded on the greatest stage of all.

But oh, it was close. As Dylan Thomas, the perceived third string from Ballydoyle - both Horatio Nelson and Septimus were ahead of him in the betting - took the initiative from his 17 rivals after a couple of furlongs Sir Percy, with Martin Dwyer riding in only his second Derby, was nearer last than first.

Dylan Thomas still held the call sweeping down the hill to Tattenham Corner and into the straight, closely pressed by Dragon Dancer. The pair began to stretch their lead, with no immediate pursuers and going to the final furlong they were still head-to-head in front.

But then, towards the middle of the track, the 2-1 favourite Visindar began to make his move, with Hala Bek alongside and Horatio Nelson on their heels. The three came tight together and at this point Horatio Nelson sustained his fatal injury.

Inside the final half-dozen strides Visindar gave best, Hala Bek was left without cover and betrayed his inexperience - he had raced only once before - by veering away from Philip Robinson's whip. Once balanced, he ran on again with a will.

And while Dylan Thomas and Dragon Dancer duelled, and Hala Bek rallied there, charging from the pack into a charmed gap along the rails, was Sir Percy, gallantly answering every one of Dwyer's questions in his late charge to glory.

"An exceptional horse," said the jockey, "with a tremendous turn of foot. It was a rough race, though I really enjoyed it. I just had to go where there was room, and take chances by going up the inside and hope the gaps would come. I wasn't sure if I had got up; I just kept my head down and hoped. And he dug deep."

Dwyer had had a fall at Bath the previous evening, but Sir Percy's road to Epsom had been even bumpier. The son of Mark of Esteem was stiff and sore after his fine second place in last month's 2,000 Guineas and Tregoning and his team at Kingwood stables in Berkshire had a race against time to get him ready for his date with destiny.

"This win is down to Marcus first and foremost," added Dwyer, "all I did was sit on the horse." It was a first Classic victory for Tregoning, 46, who served his time with the late Dick Hern in the days of the 1989 Derby winner Nashwan and is nine years into his own career.

"After the 2,000 Guineas it was my worst nightmare when Sir Percy was not quite sound behind. We even wondered if we should go to France for the French Derby [at Chantilly today] where the track is flatter," he said.

"Our physiotherapist has done an amazing job in building up his muscles again. But every credit to the horse. We were struggling to get him here, but he's a street fighter and a battler." Tregoning was let off with a warning after being stopped for speeding en route to the track, but his dash was nothing compared with Sir Percy's.

The Derby is the race that sets the middle-distance standard for the three-year-old generation and although Sir Percy now wears the mantle, after yesterday's blanket finish others will be tugging at it.

For instance Dragon Dancer, the 66-1 outsider who has yet to win a race but failed by only a whisker in the biggest of all under Darryll Holland. "I felt sure he could get a place," said the trainer Geoff Wragg, who used to train Sir Percy's dam Percy's Lass, "but this really was so near, yet so far."

Horatio Nelson's bid seemed ill-starred. At the start, Fallon trotted him up and down several times, seemingly uneasy about the colt's action, though he was judged fit to run by trainer Aidan O'Brien.

It was a grim reprise of events in the States last month, when the Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, about whom there were doubts after he broke from the stalls before the Preakness Stakes, suffered a career-ending leg injury during the race, though his life was saved.

Quote, unquote: 'The man to thank is Marcus. He got us here'

It all opened up for me. The man to thank is Marcus [Tregoning]. He did a good job just to get us here, and in such great form. It was a rough race and I had to go where I could get a run. He [Sir Percy] pulled up sore in the Guineas and missed a fair bit of work - I didn't see him until last week, but he showed a tremendous turn of form. I'm so pleased.

Martin Dywer, winning jockey

I'm still pinching myself. To have a finish like that was unbelievable. The one thing we knew was that he had a turn of foot. I saw him coming up the rail and thought, wow, he just might do it.

Victoria Pakenham, co-owner

It was a fantastic race - I did think that Hala Bek was going to get up but that was brilliant. I was stopped for speeding on the way here and was late for the parade, but I said I had a runner in the Derby and luckily he let me go.

Marcus Tregoning, trainer

So near, yet so far. He was going well all the way round until the last stride.

Geoff Wragg, trainer of second-placed Dragon Dancer

Epsom Details

1 Sir Percy 6-1
2 Dragon Dancer 66-1
3 Dylan Thomas 25-1

Ridden: M Dwyer

Trained: M Tregoning

Owned: A Pakenham

Distances: Short head, head

Favourite: Visindar 2-1

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

Software Engineer - C++

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software En...

Software Team Leader - C++

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software Tea...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor