Excerpts from ‘A Maharaja’s Turf’ ….. 6 – Epsom Derby 1934 : The Race

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The King raised his glasses to follow the parade to the post. Meyrick Good wrote in The Sporting Life, “Never in my life has a cooler company left the paddock for the Derby parade. The nervous tension that upset Colombo on Two Thousand Guineas day was absent. The favourite walked round the parade ring as docile as a seasoned plater. In the preliminaries he was on his best behaviour, and the only horse to give least trouble was Bondsman. Colombo had a well-trained appearance, a shade lighter than he had been before, which was only natural after the preparation he has undergone. Umidwar could not fail to please. Tiberius was a ball of muscle, as was Primero. The latter moved splendidly in the canter, but Colombo appeared to me to be galloping higher off the ground than usual. Windsor Lad moved well. He carried a fine bloom, and was full of muscle. Admiral Drake’s style of moving did not impress, but Medieval Knight strode out well, a lot better than Easton. Umidwar cantered well, but on arrival at the post he hung back from the others, and slightly delayed the dispatch. Twice he turned round after he had been driven up to his field.”

The Field made its own observation: “First on the scene was the American-bred and owned colt, Bondsman, who carried the white and red spots of Mr. William Woodward, the owner of Betty. A well made sort with lop ears, he is rather long in the back, and gave one an impression of coarseness. As a four-year-old, he should, to my mind, possess a definite future. Rathmore showed up as a well-balanced sort of colt and his trainer tells me that he stays on for ever. Both Tiberius and Valerius, scions of the Son-in-Law line, carried a rather rugged outline, and it seemed to me that Valerius required more mettling up, and for that reason another week or two of preparation might have proved beneficial. Both J.A. Dewar and Fred Darling decided to rely upon Medieval Knight to bring Derby honours home once more, and for that reason Lo Zingaro’s number was taken out of the frame. Full of quality, with any amount of heart room, and with the best of legs and feet, Medieval Knight resembled his sire, Gay Crusader, in many respects, particularly his short length of rein. That he possesses liberty of action he certainly proved in the race, but much more to my liking was Easton, who is a well-moulded colt, which seemed worth every penny of the large sum (£15,000) which Lord Woolavington paid for him.”

And then the cords were lifted. Time followed the race closely: “At the start, Lord Dewar’s Medieval Knight got the lead, held it for a mile. The Maharajah of Rajpipla who bought Windsor Lad as a yearling for £1,300 and who had made Derby Day a holiday on his estate at Old Windsor, watched his horse and smiled. At the head of the stretch, the crowd saw three horses – Windsor Lad, Lord Woolavington’s Easton and Colombo – pound out in front of the field. In the stretch Colombo was running splendidly and catching up on the other two. At the finish – in 2:34 to equal last year’s track record – Windsor Lad was still ahead with Easton second and Colombo third.”

The Times reported: “The Maharajah of Rajpipla won the Derby at Epsom yesterday with his colt Windsor Lad, trained by Marcus Marsh and ridden with most admirable judgement by C. Smirke, by a length from Easton, who was a neck in front of the favourite, Colombo. The rider of Alishah, Perryman, lost both irons at the top of the hill and did not pick them up again until a furlong and more later. I have seldom if ever seen a better race for the Derby, it being impossible to say with any reasonable certainty a furlong from the finish which of three horses would win. Those three horses at the end occupied the first three places.”

“There was no real trouble at the start,” The Times continued. “First of all Bondsman was fractious, but no horse can long be fractious with such a rider as Childs on his back. Then Umidwar began to fall back, and as soon as he was troublesome On Top, who never had claims to be a Derby candidate, began to play up. However, soon after the advertised time, Captain Allison, the best starter of my time, sent the field away. No one can complain of the start, which neither favoured nor handicapped any of the starters. Umidwar began slowly, as did Admiral Drake and Rathmore, but in their case it must be admitted that they hit the gate with the others. Almost directly after the start Donoghue sent Medieval Knight into the lead, followed by Colombo. I could also see Tiberius well placed, as well as Windsor Lad, Badruddin and Alishah. Primero also was prominent with Fleetfoot. And so they went along the far side of the course.”

On a crucial point in the race, The Times observed, “Suddenly at the top of the course before the descent down the hill to Tattenham Corner was made Colombo lost his place. From being second he was very quickly seventh. It seemed to me then that something must have happened to him, but I learnt afterwards that Medieval Knight stopped in front of him and Johnstone had to check him. Soon after the hill had been begun Tiberius moved up and he came down the hill in front of Fleetfoot. Windsor Lad was also well placed. Easton also was there, as was Alishah. Tiberius led into the straight, but almost at once Windsor Lad came into the lead. Easton was not far behind, while Colombo had begun again to improve. Halfway down the Straight it became reasonably certain that the winner would be one of three horses, Windsor Lad, who was in front; Easton who was challenging him on his off-side, and Colombo, who had come from behind and had given up his place on the rails and had drawn rather widely to the middle of the course. Just for a moment it seemed that Colombo would win, but he suddenly changed his legs, showing that he was beaten, and it was left to Easton to chase Windsor Lad home. Smirke on the leader showed that he is still as great a rider as ever he was and gave away nothing. Ride as hard as he might Richards could not gain an inch on Windsor Lad, and the latter in the end won by a length. I never expect or hope to see a better Derby.”

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

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