Looking back at 4 years of woe for the Epsom Derby form book

Epsom Racecourse

Let this statistic sink in: Anthony Van Dyck is the first Derby winner to win a subsequent race since Harzand won the Irish Derby in June 2016.

The Epsom Derby is Britain’s richest horse race and the most prestigious of the five Classics but is it in danger of losing its appeal looking at recent trends?

We take a look back at the last four winners of the Derby to see what they went on to achieve since.

2017 – Wings Of Eagles

This boy certainly had the pedigree to figure in a Derby being the offspring of 2011 Derby winner Pour Moi but he arrived at Epsom without much of a chance. Ridden by Padraig Beggy and sent off at odds of 40/1, he won the Derby for Aidan O’Brien having had just one maiden victory to his name. He was subsequently third in the Irish equivalent but picked up a career-ending injury and was retired.

2018 – Masar

Owned by Godolphin and trained by Charlie Appleby, Masar was sent off the 5/2 favourite for the 2000 Guineas but had to settle for third behind Saxon Warrior. He wasn’t seen again until Derby day where he was sent off an outside 16/1 chance to land the Classic. He was always going to stay as he was by New Approach and William Buick guided him to a comfortable victory. He was subsequently very disappointing at Ascot and Newmarket a year later and was retired, another horse to fall foul to injury woes.

2019 – Anthony Van Dyck

A stoutly-bred son of Galileo, this boy was always going to be aimed at the Derby and in the famous Mrs John Magnier & M Tabor & D Smith colours he got the job done at 13/2 in the safe hands of Seamie Heffernan. He then went seven starts without tasting success but found a golden opportunity in the Group 2 Prix Foy at Longchamp last weekend, taking on Stradivarius who simply isn’t a mile and a half horse. He beat Gosden’s superstar in France and is the only Derby winner since 2016 to have gone on to win a race since.

2020 – Serpentine

This year is a year to forget for many reasons off the course but it will be a year to forget for the jockeys of the 2020 Derby who allowed Emmet McNamara an unassailable lead in the Derby. Sent off 25/1, he was stepped right up to a Classic from maiden company and won the Derby by more than five lengths doing handstands. It was the strangest Derby we have ever seen and it is only natural to question the form as Khalifa Sat (50/1) and Amhrán Na Bhfiann (100/1) were second and third and the first three home were up with the pace the whole way around. He was since 4th behind Anthony Van Dyck in the Prix Foy.

What is the conclusion?

It has to be said that it has been a few years since we saw a proper superstar win the Derby and the form book doesn’t lie. Three of the last four winners have been outsiders trained by Aidan O’Brien. On the face of it, it looks like his entire focus is on winning the Derby and it’s pretty much irrelevant what happens after that. If they can send a Derby winner off to stud they are happy.

It is also a tad harsh to just say that the last four winners of the Derby have been poor winners. Wings Of Eagles never got an opportunity to go on and prove his worth as he was retired after his next run and likewise Masar, who was a fantastic and high-class horse, faced a lengthy spell on the sidelines and was never the same again. It will be interesting to monitor the Derby form for the next two to three years but the race is in dire need of a superstar to surface.


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