TV View: Racegoers keep their shirts on as spoils go to Mohammed

Strong police presence ensures racecourse decorum is maintained on Derby Day

Horse racing is a mystery to most of us. We really don’t know what’s going on at all, at all inside their big brawny heads.

At the Epsom Derby on TV3 on Saturday even Aidan O'Brien couldn't work out what his hope Saxon Warrior was trying to tell him before the race.

“Fractious,” said one commentator. “Just simmering,” said another. “Edgy,” noted a third.

O’Brien had five runners in a field of 12, which doesn’t seem fair at all. Team tackling the Derby. But those are the things you have to do if you are chasing a record-equalling seventh win.


Badly behaved toffs at two other England courses, Goodwood and Ascot, ensured a high police presence among the frocks and top hats and helicopters and the genetic freaks that flat horses have become. Beautiful, shimmering, sleek genetic freaks.

But the fear factor was obviously high among the royals and the crème de la crème after a shirtless race-goer crashed through the crowd on Ladies Day at Royal Ascot to square up to another punter, challenging him with “Let’s finish it off, me and you”.

And so it was at Epsom. Nests of conspicuous cops at every turn ready to pounce on anyone stripped to the waist with an empty champagne jeroboam at their feet.

But, before the gates even opened in the one mile four furlong Blue Riband event, ITV treated us to a biopic of Lester Piggott, who Brough Scott accurately sketched as a man who "never spoke much more than a splutter" and "lived on a diet of cigars and black coffee".

Ask another weight saver Paddy Barnes what it is like to make the 49 kilos limit for the Olympic boxing tournament and he will growl. Question: What has less calories than water. Answer: why cigar smoke.

Good enough to win the Epsom Derby, nine times some of them with Irish master Vincent O’Brien. That pairing was described by Scott as “the greatest partnership of the 20th century or any century,” which seemed a little excessive on the praise side until they announced it was the 239th running of the Derby.

Vincent’s namesake Aidan couldn’t work his alchemy on Saxon Warrior who was caught up in a congested field and came home fourth.

Had he won, the previously unbeaten 2,000 Guineas winner was expected to attempt the Triple Crown – last achieved by Nijinsky in 1970 – by competing in September’s St Leger.

Happy royal

The 16-1 winning shot Masar had a normally restrained Sheikh Mohammed not quite break dancing but busting out some happy royal moves in the winner’s enclosure. What a good trainer Charlie [Appleby] is the Sheikh was asked.

“Yes he is a very good trainer and the horse is from Dubai,” he replied, that old drugs scandal at the Godolphin stables in 2013 very much consigned to the past.

“King Kevon’s got some wheels,” the Sky team at Twickenham told us as Kevon, pronounced Kay-Von, took off down the famous turf alongside the fastest man in world rugby Carlin Isles.

Alas it wasn’t enough for the USA on Sunday morning as Ireland, like Masar, upset the odds and pulled off the biggest win of their short history in World Series Sevens Rugby.

Anthony Eddy’s Irish side did the polite thing and stepped up to the mark after being invited to London to mix with the big boys of the world circuit. Ireland play their regular rugby on the second-tier challenge circuit and were in London for their first appearance on the main stage since 2004.

Trashing USA, where Ireland's Jordan Conroy did what few can do and burned Isles for pace, earned them a crack at Fiji in the semi-final. If it had been any other sport in the world other than Sevens rugby, Ireland might have felt good about their streak of rich form continuing.

But the Olympic Champions are princes of the 14 minute match. A game too short to ever be boring, the Twickenham event was wall to wall rugby with a party mood and the Fijians partied hard.

While Ireland's bodacious cameo lit up the tournament, Fiji's unstructured wizardry bamboozled plenty. There were more flicked backhand passes from Semi Radradra and Joshua Tuisova in Twickenham than Novac Djokovic over in Roland Garros.

“Even when it goes wrong for Fiji, it goes right,” said one of the sages from the commentary team. That didn’t make sense, although watching irresistible Fiji, oddly it did.

The thoroughbreds beat Ireland 38-12. Freaky good were Fiji.