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Top 5 Champions Series moments at the Derby Festival

28 May 2015

Celebrating the fifth Investec Derby Festival since the QIPCO British Champions Series began in 2011, we highlight our five favourite moments from Epsom.

It’s nearly that time of year again. The Investec Derby is the most sought after victory in the career of every trainer, jockey, owner and breeder.

Celebrating the fifth Investec Derby Festival since the QIPCO British Champions Series began in 2011, we highlight our five favourite moments from Epsom.

#5 Emphatic Derby success for Camelot

There was always the sense of a fairytale around Camelot.

Firstly the name. Held back by Coolmore for ten years until a potential champion came along, this horse was the chosen one.

A promising juvenile season was backed up by the son of Montjeu beginning his Classic campaign with the perfect performance in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas. Sent off the tentative favourite, a pacey, late rally saw Camelot narrowly win the British Classic by a neck from French Fifteen. He was now, rightly, the clear favourite for the Investec Derby.

With the talk beforehand focused on the Aidan O’Brien-trained star and second favourite Bonfire romantically bidding to pass the post side-by-side after once sharing the same paddock as foals, the reality was much different.  

Poised at the rear of the field, when jockey Joseph O’Brien set for home at the two-furlong pole the reaction was instant. His rivals never stood a chance.

#4 Taghrooda scintillating in Oaks canter

Taghrooda’s success in the Investec Oaks was a first for connections.

A first British Classic victory for jockey Paul Hanagan. A first Classic triumph for sire Sea The Stars. And, a first winner at the highest level in England for Sheikh Hamdan since Awzaan in 2009.

But, regardless of that, Taghrooda’s performance in the Investec Oaks was that of a true champion.

Stalking the prominent runners, the John Gosden-trained filly made her charge to British Classic glory with two furlongs to go at Epsom. She and Hanagan never looked back.

At the line, the pair were three and three quarter lengths ahead of the runner-up Tarfasha.

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#3 Pour Moi swoops late to land the Derby

If late-swooping tight finishes smothered in controversial premature celebrations is your thing, then the 2011 Investec Derby was the race for you.

With the attention beforehand all on whether Her Majesty The Queen could win the Derby with Carlton House, the aftermath was instead all about a young French jockey called Mickael Barzalona and his flamboyant ride on board Pour Moi.

Held at the rear of the field, Andre Fabre’s colt only eventually began to make his mark on the race in the closing stages.

Picking off rival by rival, watch below as Pour Moi gets home late to win the most prestigious horse race in the world by the smallest of margins. Also, keep an eye out for the enthusiastic celebrations of Barzalona in the dying stages.

#2 St Nicholas Abbey cruises to third Coronation Cup crown

There are not many horses that O’Brien will sing the praises of at such a young age – who would blame him with the weaponry he has on offer year after year. But, St Nicholas Abbey was different.

Despite disappointing in the 2000 Guineas and missing the Derby, it is St Nicholas Abbey’s three successive victories in the Coronation Cup at Epsom that will live longest in the memory for racing fanatics.

Middle distance heroine Midday, fans’ favourite Red Cadeaux and St Leger champion Masked Marvel are some of the names that the Ballydoyle star cruised past at Epsom in those three years, but the most poignant of them all was his last.

What turned out to be his last ever race, St Nicholas Abbey ran heroically.

Effortless in his stride, the then six-year-old repelled the challenge of his nearest rival, Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden, to claim a historic success on the Downs.

Sadly an injury sustained in training after this performance resulted in St Nicholas Abbey being put to sleep, despite several attempts to keep him alive. He departed the Champions Series leaving us with some of the most stunning performances we have ever seen. 

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#1 Australia rules Epsom with Aidan O’Brien Derby hat-trick

Famously clocking times as a two-year-old on the Ballydoyle gallops that would have been eye-catching for a three-year-old, connections knew that the well-bred juvenile was exceptional.

Australia began his Classic campaign with a superb effort in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas to narrowly finish third behind Night of Thunder and Kingman. He went to Epsom with the best possible preparation under his belt. And so it turned out.

Turning into the home straight, there was only going to be one winner.

Followed closely home by subsequent Ladbrokes St Leger winner Kingston Hill, the son of Derby winner Galileo and Oaks heroine Ouija Board justified his connections’ enthusiasm by winning the most prestigious Flat race in the world with ease.

Inadvertently, Australia made history for his handler. O’Brien become the first trainer in the race’s history to win the contest three times in a row.