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Crowley Calls It: “Winning the Derby would be a defining moment in my career”

Champion Jockey Jim Crowley talks us though his rides at Epsom on Derby Day and his evening rides at Lingfield

Waking up on Derby Day knowing you have a ride on a leading contender will be an incredible feeling. A bit like a footballer waking up knowing he’s playing in the FA Cup final. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll get there early to avoid the traffic and have a run round the track just to warm up. I’ll jog down to the mile and a half start and then jog back again, and go through the race in my head a few times while I’m doing it. I can’t wait. I have a ride earlier on the card, on Epsom Icon, so that will be a nice warm up too.

I came from a National Hunt background and growing up I always dreamed of riding in the Grand National and at the Cheltenham Festival, and never imagined myself riding in the Derby. So it’s a bit surreal to think how things have turned out.

That said, as a family we always took a special interest in watching the Derby. My earliest memory of the race is of Nashwan winning it with Willie Carson pumping away, but there have been loads of great winners that spring to mind since then, the likes of High Chapparal and Sea The Stars, and another Willie Carson winner, Erhaab, is another of my most memorable Derbies.

Last year I had my first ride in the race on Algometer, and I must have watched every replay of the Oaks and the Derby for as long as the videos went back. You just have to take it all in and watch the way the likes of Lester Piggott, and all the other top jockeys, liked to ride the course. It’s interesting to see where they position their horses from different draws and that kind of thing.

Tactically, there is no one way of riding a Derby in fact every horse is different so you need to find the best tactics to suit your horse, and other factors will influence that, like where you are drawn, and how quick they go. There have been Derby winners from the front and some have come from last place, so there’s no one position to be in. Ultimately, if your horse is good enough, he should be able to get himself out of any bits of trouble.  You just need to be on the right horse.

I have great confidence in my horse Eminent. He has a big stride on him, and really covers the ground, and is clearly really talented. He’s stepping up from a mile to a mile and a half, but I don’t have any doubts about him staying the trip. It’s an open race but there are probably only five horses that can win in my opinion. There will be a lot of non-stayers, and stragglers. It could well be a rough race as most of the jockeys will think they have a live chance.

Cracksman and the O’Brien horses are the biggest dangers, and we’ve seen Aidan win it with his second string before. I couldn’t name one horse that I particularly fear, that stands out. I would pick to ride my horse even if I had a choice and he’s going into the race really unexposed. He’s a bit under the radar in my opinion. He won a Craven in a record time, he was close up in the Guineas only beaten 3 lengths by Churchill. He has a similar profile to Derby winners like Sir Percy and Generous in that regard. His profile fits the bill and I’m really hopeful he’ll run a big race.

Winning the Derby would be a defining moment in my career. It is the most important Flat race in the World in my opinion so to win it would be a dream come true.

2.35 Epsom – Epsom Icon

I rode her last time out. She has lost her way a little bit, but she is two from two at Epsom and she won this race last year. She’s a good filly and she ran okay last time out.  Mick Channon has two entries in the race, but hopefully my filly can get back on track and find her form again.

5.15 Epsom – Eddystone Rock

I haven’t ridden the horse, but I believe he was a bit unlucky last time. My agent was quite keen that I ride him. I haven’t watched the race, but will do before I ride him.

Lingfield Evening Rides

I then head to Lingfield for a few rides.  I ride Bizet for John Ryan, and when he books me they are usually fancied to run quite well as he doesn’t book me for also-rans. I’ve ridden a good few winners for John last year, and I even think he backed me to win the Jockeys’ title too. He’s a great guy and does really well with his horses. I don’t know much about Alaskan Star in the maiden at 7.20. He’s only had the one run finishing sixth.

I ride Tanasoq for Owen Burrows in the 8.20. I haven’t ridden him before but he came second last time which was an encouraging run, so hopefully he can go well. In the 8.50 I’m on Katrine a horse I won on for William Knight but is now trained by David O’Meara. I’ve ridden a few winners for the owner and David is great as whenever Danny Tudhope isn’t available he often gives me the leg up.

Jim