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.

Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
News
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
peopleFilm star says he is 'not interested in making money anymore'
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
Sport
footballAccording to revelations from Sergio Aguero's new biography
Life and Style
tech

News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker