Which were the top five Derby winners, according to Timeform?
Timeform ratings first appeared in ‘Racehorses of 1947’, published in 1948, and ever since have provided a matter-of-fact means of comparing racehorses from different generations. Of course, it can be argued that ratings of any description, Timeform or otherwise, are simply a matter of opinion, but the findings make for interesting reading all the same.
According to Timeform, Sea-Bird (145), who won the Derby on his only start in Britain, in 1965, remains the second highest-rated Flat horse since World War II, behind only Frankel (147). Trained in France by Etienne Pollett and ridden by Australian jockey Pat Glennon, Sea-Bird justified favouritism at Epsom in effortless fashion, beating subsequent Irish Derby winner Meadow Court by two lengths, despite being heavily eased in the closing stages.
The 1971 Derby winner Mill Reef (141) was beaten by Brigadier Gerard in the 2,000 Guineas, but proved himself the outstanding middle-distance horse of his generation by also winning the Coral-Eclipse, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Trained by Ian Badling and ridden by Geoff Lewis, Mill Reef travelled enthusiastically at Epsom and could be called the winner some way from home; at the line, he had two lengths to spare over Linden Tree.
Shergar (140) and Sea The Stars (140) share third place on the all-time list, according to Timeform. In 1981, Shergar, trained by Michael Stoute and ridden by Walter Swinburn, was sent off the shortest-priced Derby favourite since Sir Ivor in 1968. He turned Tattenham Corner still firmly on the bridle and stretched clear to win, eased down, by a record ten lengths. In 2009, Sea The Stars – who never won any race by more than 2½ lengths – was more workmanlike in his comfortable, 1¾-length defeat of Fame And Glory in the Derby. Nonetheless, he was described, quite rightly, as ‘one of the greats’ by winning jockey Mick Kinane immediately afterwards.
Likewise, Reference Point (139) and Generous (139) share fifth place. Trained by Henry Cecil and ridden by Steve Cauthen, Reference Point was sent off 6/4 favourite for the 1987 Derby and made most of the running, eventually coming home 1½ lengths ahead of Most Welcome in a course record time. Four years later, Generous, trained by Paul Cole and ridden by Alan Munro, was only fifth choice in the betting market, at 9/1, but was always travelling strongly and stormed clear to win by five lengths and seven from Marju and Star Of Gdansk.