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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Big names aplenty remembered on a day full of Epsom history

Philip Mitchell: won the amateur riders' derby four times from 1967 to 1974
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From Lord Oaksey to Luca Cumani, Dermot Weld to Nick Gaselee, the Amateur Riders' Derby at Epsom (3.50) has an astonishingly distinguished roll of honour when it comes to winning jockeys.

In its heyday it was the highlight of the August bank holiday Monday programme, thanks in no small part to the sponsorship of champagne producers Moet & Chandon.

Philip Mitchell won it four times and recalled on Sunday: "It's frightening – I'm at the Edenbridge County Show and on the way down I realised it was 50 years ago I rode my first winner of the Moet & Chandon.

"It was always a fabulous race to ride in, a great buzz. In those days it was a stakes race, not a handicap. I was very fortunate that trainers laid horses out for it because not only did the rider get six cases of champagne, so did the trainer. They were stocking up for Christmas!"

Mitchell, 69, who was champion amateur five times, added: "A lot of great trainers rode in it. Dermot Weld won it, so did Luca Cumani –he beat me a short head one year. It was most prestigious to say you rode in the amateurs' derby."

Pigeon pipped

Mitchell took up training on the retirement of his father Cyril in 1974 and has particularly fond memories of beating a future champion hurdler when landing his final success in the race that year on Laurentian Hills.

"Sea Pigeon was short-priced favourite and down at the start Nicky Richards asked who was going to make the running," he said.

"I said, 'This horse has only got one gear and I'll make the running'. I slowed them all down as we came to Tattenham Corner, then kicked and nicked about six lengths and nothing could get him back."

Dermot Weld: trained and rode the winner

Bill O'Gorman, Tim Easterby and Tim Thomson-Jones are also on the roll of honour, while Weld not only rode but trained Lane Court to win the race.

He recalled: "It was a special day. The second horse was trained by Henry Cecil and ridden by Luca Cumani.

"I took it up in the last 100 yards and won by about half a length. It was lovely to win, a proper race – it was of a higher calibre than it is nowadays." 

Amateurs' Derby card and betting

Not only did the rider get six cases of champagne, so did the trainer. They were stocking up for Christmas!
E.W. Terms
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