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Narked by a Nose

I think I’ve got enough mileage out of the anecdote about when I interviewed the winning jockey in the Derby – before the race had even been run!

If I tell that one again at a dinner party I think the invites will start drying up! I’ve decided to wait for an equally bizarre follow-up Derby story, so that I can be the object of my dwindling social circle’s fascination, once again. This year I’ve had the pleasure of featuring Surrey-born model Jodie Kidd, who has been chosen as the Face of the Derby. She will be wearing a hat by Phillip Treacy - and Albert and Michel Roux Jr. will be serving the finest cuisine to those with time to tear themselves away from the racing for a few moments. Perhaps something remarkable will happen to one of them, this time…

What’s that you say? Who was the winning jockey I interviewed and how come I did it before the race? Well, ok, just one more time… It was the run-up to the 2006 Derby. Out of a strong field of top class jockeys and thoroughbred horses I was guided towards Martin Dwyer and his mount, Sir Percy. No other riders were available but Martin, it seems, was just hanging on the end of his phone waiting to feature in Time & Leisure’s Derby preview. Now, I know what you must be thinking. If I had been guided by some unseen power to chat to the winner beforehand I must have backed him at the bookies. Alas, not so. In the true manner of a man who can’t even win an argument I didn’t. Acting like someone who was clearly one digit short of a starting price I sat down in front of my television and proudly pointed out the subject of my pre-Derby interview to my family.

The Downs were covered in colourful costumes; the champers was flowing and all eyes were on the start. They were away; the field was tight. It was going to be anyone’s race. A bunch of riders rounded Tattenham Corner and tore down the long finishing straight. Martin and Sir Percy were hopelessly locked in the middle somewhere, with the winning post rushing towards them at great speed.

Then something quite eerie happened. A gap opened up on the rails; Martin and Sir Percy spotted it, said thank you very much and slipped through to win the world’s greatest classic race by a nose… Yes, a pair of flared nostrils! Since then, I have offered bookies nothing more than a snort of indignation… I just enjoy the greatest day in the flat racing calendar – right here in my own back yard!

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