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My Derby horse d’oeuvres

One of my favourite tales to tell over dinner is the year I interviewed the jockey who won the Derby – a month before his historic achievement!

Of course, there is a sting in the tale...

In the first year of my editorial tenure of this magazine, I was invited to chat to Martin Dwyer, one of the jockeys who would be contesting the most famous flat race in the world. It seemed he was just waiting to speak to Time & Leisure at a time when all the other jockeys were too preoccupied – or under orders to keep a low profile and shun the press.

Now, I hear you ask, if I had the chance to get to know Martin before the race surely I must have followed it up with a wager on his ultimate success? Alas, in the true style of a man who can’t even win an argument, I didn’t. I didn’t place a bet on any horse in the race. It would have been justified; yes. A hefty gamble would have been understandable; of course… But, as we sat down to watch the Race on television, I merely pointed out the man who I had interviewed as part of our Derby preview.

The significance of my inaction was lost until a tight bunch of riders rounded Tattenham Corner with everything to go for. They tore down the long finishing straight like their lives depended on it (in career terms this wasn’t too far from the truth). Martin and his mount, Sir Percy, were hopelessly boxed in the middle, but suddenly, as if some great force had decided to punish me for my lack of conviction, a gap opened up on the rails. Martin and Sir Percy said thank you very much and slipped through to win the world’s greatest classic by a nose… A nose! A half a mile would have sounded so much better, but Sir Percy’s nose had put mine out of joint big time.

Ever since I’ve stayed well clear of interviewing jockeys; the memories are too painful. But I bet everyone who goes along to this year’s Epsom Derby will have one hugely enjoyable time – and that’s one wager I know I will win…

Chris Wood is resident composer with Guest House Opera and editor of Epsom, Sutton and Cheam Time & Leisure.