Theoretically, there’s nothing to stop fillies running in the Derby, but the trend among modern trainers is to run them against their own sex, in the fillies-only Oaks, rather than against the colts, from whom they receive a 3lb allowance. Interestingly, in 2021, the Derby is worth £1,125,000 in guaranteed prize money, while the Oaks is worth just £375,000, but prize money is not the only consideration.
Of course, a Derby-winning filly would be a valuable commodity as a broodmare, but not nearly as valuable as a Derby-winning colt would be as a stallion, granted that the latter could cover hundreds of mares a year, potentially at hundreds of thousands of pounds per covering. Anyway, whatever the rationale behind the dearth of fillies in the Derby in recent years, the last filly to line up for the ‘Blue Riband’ event was Cape Verdi in 1998.
Trained by Saeed bin Suroor and ridden by Frankie Dettori, the daughter of Caerleon had previously justified favouritism in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, beating subsequent Oaks winner Shahtoush by 5 lengths. Consequently, she sent off favourite for the Derby, but seemingly failed to stay a mile and a half, weakening two furlongs from home to finish ninth, 12 lengths behind the winner, High-Rise.
Although it has not been run over its traditionally advertised distance of 4 miles 4 furlongs since 2012, the longest horse race in Britain is still officially the Grand National at Aintree. In 2013, the National Course underwent a physical change when, in the name of safety, the position of the start of the Grand National was moved forward by approximately one hundred yards. The thinking behind the move was two-fold; in the first place, the revised start position meant that participants were further removed from the grandstands and distracting crowd noise and, in the second, reduced the distance over which horses could build up a ‘head of steam’ on the run to the first fence.
Consequently, the advertised distance of the Grand National was reduced to 4 miles 3½ furlongs and stayed that way until 2016, when it was further reduced to 4 miles 2½ furlongs, or 4 miles 2 furlongs and 74 yards, to be precise. The National Course did not change, but Aintree, along with every other National Hunt racecourse in the country, was re-measured along a line two yards from the inside rail, rather than along the middle of the track, thereby reducing the overall distance of the Grand National.
Dubbed ‘The Genius’ after saddling the first five home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1983, former Champion National Hunt Trainer Michael W. Dickinson has many claims to fame. Following his retirement from the training ranks, for the first time, Dickinson invented and developed the Tapeta racing surface, which is now in use at Newcastle and Wolverhampton in Britain and various venues worldwide. However, even before the ‘Famous Five’ at Cheltenham, Dickinson had already written his name, possibly indelibly, into the Guiness Book of World Records.
On Boxing Day, 1982, Dickinson made a deliberate attempt – as discussed with his parents, Tony and Monica, months earlier – to break the world record for the number of winners trained in a single day. In fact, during a busy Bank Holiday programme, he sent out twenty runners, or over a third of his string, from his yard in Harewood, West Yorkshire, to six different meetings across the country. The highlight of the day was a win for Wayward Lad, ridden by John Francome, in the King George VI Chase at Kempton but, all told, twelve of the Dickinson-trained horses won and just one of the twenty finished unplaced.
Obviously, horse racing takes place in numerous jurisdictions worldwide and, as such, it can be difficult to keep track of which jockeys have ridden how many winners on a single day down the years. However, the world record for the most winners on a single day, on a single racecourse, is believed to be held by Panamanian-born jockey Eddie Castro. On June 4, 2005 at Calder, Florida, Castro rode nine winners on a 13-race card; in so doing, he equalled the feat achieved by Chris Cantley on October 31, 1987, but Cantley rode five winners at Aqueduct, New York in the afternoon and four at Meadowlands, New Jersey in the evening for his total of nine.
Elsewhere in the world, on September 6, 2013, Brazilian-born jockey Joao Moreira rode eight winners from as many rides on a nine-race card at Kranji, Singapore; he was ineligible for the remaining race on the card, an apprentices’ event. In Britain, Italian-born Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori hit the headlines when, on September 28, 1996, he rode all seven winners on the ‘Festival of British Racing’ card at Ascot. More recently, on October 15, 2012, Richard Hughes also rode seven winners, albeit from eight rides, at Windsor.