Shaamit show just starting

For those who watched the cockerel introducing Movietone news while in short trousers, the Derby scene will have been unrecognisable on Saturday. Where once the only bare spaces were on the crowns of middle- aged men there are now great swathes of unoccupied grassland. The Derby as a folk festival is not what it was.

The attendance was actually up 3.6 per cent to 56,253 compared with last year's first Saturday Derby, a figure which has persuaded United Racecourses, Epsom's owners, that they should stick with the weekend option rather than reverting to the traditional Wednesday.

This is not a sentiment shared by the bookmakers. It is a measure of the complexity of the Derby's ills that even the men who guard their money like an alligator defends its young are confused about the Blue Riband. These were the characters who walked abreast with the pro-Saturday banners just two years ago but are now equally adamant the race must be returned to mid-week. Almost 20 on-course pitches were deserted on Saturday, general betting turnover on the Classic was down about 20 per cent and speculation on football rivalled Derby wagering.

When the layers pass the petition round they will not be able to rely on the signature of Edward Gillespie, UR's director of racing. "My impression is that the meeting has found a nice equilibrium and can go upwards from its Saturday position," he said yesterday. "I don't think you can make it any better just by putting it on a Wednesday."

He may be right. The middle of the week may rip away the counter attractions that this weekend offered, but old-time, shoulder-to-shoulder Derbys have disappeared and can no longer be used as a yardstick.

The happy myth about the Derby is that it used to be a day of relief for the whole of the East End on their way to summer employment in the hop fields of Kent. Well, machines have now replaced fingers in the garden of England and London's docklands have changed irrevocably.

Until World War II, that area did have a constituency that went en masse to Epsom from their (so-called) chummy slums. The housing redevelopment of the 1950s and decline of the Port of London was followed by the exodus of some of the traditional Eastenders. The core that buttressed the Derby was dismantled and that was the beginning of the end. Imagine what the Cheltenham Festival (which has the throbbing mass once the boast of the Downs) would be like without the Irish presence.

In the black and white days of broadcasting it was worth attending the Derby on the simple level that you could get a better view than in your lounge. With the advancement of technology that factor has been reversed. Given the choice of sweating your way to Epsom on Saturday or occupying an armchair (fridge fully stocked) and channel surfing between racing, international football and Test cricket there appeared only one victor.

Gillespie and his team underpinned this year's race with a selection of promotional events and record spending on advertising. They did all they could, but the Derby is too far gone to be resuscitated by gimmickry

But the event still has no peer as a racing championship. Any horse that can survive the demanding geography of the Surrey downlands is worthy of the ultimate praise.

The part of Lester Piggott in Shaamit's win may have been hugely overplayed, but the old boy did have some input. Michael Hills, the winner's pilot, watched a dozen Derby videos with Piggott and made note of the occasional one-liners that came his way. "He didn't give me instructions as such, but general advice that struck a chord with me," Hills said yesterday. "His thoughts kept popping up in my head during the race."

Beforehand, Shaamit had looked magnificent and easily won the swimwear section of the contest. He also had the courage to match his looks.

It is to the colt's great credit that as such an inexperienced horse he survived Saturday's Wrestlemania. Participants at Pamplona gain easier passages than many managed in this Derby. Shaamit took all this and wanted more. "When the horses came round me, pulling up, he ran on again and I couldn't pull him up," Hills said. "So if anything came to him in a race I think he'd rally."

Hills's problem is to consider where he throws his hat if Shaamit and Geoff Wragg's outstanding Pentire ever meet, while Willie Haggas, the Derby winner's trainer, is concerned with persuading Khalifa Dasmal that his colt should be supplemented for the Irish Derby.

"If the Irish race is worth pounds 360,000 and it's pounds 60,000 to enter then, in effect, it's putting your money on a 6-1 shot and I'm sure he wouldn't be that price," Haggas said yesterday. "The horse is very inexperienced and that [not many people call the Derby "that"] should have done him a lot of good mentally. You'd like to think he'd improve."

Haggas may never have mopped a factory floor but his mind is not crowded by fancy ideas. He is one of the most approachable young men in racing and, importantly, he is going to argue for Shaamit to be kept in training as a four-year-old. "It's important that if Khalifa decides to keep him in training as a four-year-old we don't abuse him this year," he said. "If we can agree on that then we won't overdo him this season.

"If you go on to train them as four-year-olds you can't have your cake and eat it. You can't milk them too much during their Classic year."

If a positive note can be drawn from the weekend then this is it. Only three horses have won a Derby on their seasonal debut this century. Shaamit has managed that and holds the promise of a victory tour which may make him only the second Derby winner in the last 10 years to compete after his Classic year.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Sport
A view of today's Spanish papers
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
people

Sport
sportAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Support Analyst - London - £22,000

£20000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chel...

Learning Support Assistants-Nantwich area

£8 - £9 per hour: Randstad Education Chester: We are currently recruiting for ...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London