Epsom live in the past, trading on history and ignoring reality. Those in charge of Epsom are downright lazy.
The Epsom Derby is for toffs, the aristocrat, the billionaire, those who eat at the top table of their profession. So many first-class jockeys will never get to ride in the race; many good trainers will never saddle a runner. You only have to witness how people must dress just to view the race from the grandstand to understand the exclusivity of the event. And Epsom racecourse encompasses a public space, where people in jeans and t-shirts walk their dogs on the Downs before going off to earn a crust, to keep mind and body unified.
As I say, the Epsom executive are lazy. They cannot do anything to the Derby itself to give it the appeal of more popular horse races. They could move it back to a Wednesday. That would return a sort of specialness to the race, allowing the race-goer that rare treat of a day off work in the middle of the week. But other than that it is a race for 3-year-olds, nominally colts, over 1-mile, 4-furlongs.
What they could do is give the Derby meeting the feel of a proper horse racing festival, a flat version of the Cheltenham Festival. Royal Ascot by the way is not flat racing's equivalent of Cheltenham. Nothing could be. Royal Ascot is Royal Ascot. It is unique. Of course to make the Derby meeting special you would have to ignore the out-dated and needless European Pattern, that nonsense dreamed-up long ago that works like the E.U. telling racecourse what sort of grade races they can have and what they cannot. It's complicated; it's stupid. Enough said.
The worst thing Epsom ever did was getting rid of the round course. That decision robbed Epsom of a unique feature - a flat course where the expression 'going out into the country' might be applied. With the round course the Great Metropolitan Handicap could be reinstated and made into the longest handicap flat race in Britain, a major edition to a festival. What Epsom could also initiate is a huge investment in prize money for the Coronation Cup, bringing it in value to equal the King George at Ascot later in the year. At the moment the Coronation Cup is a trial for bigger races later in the year. A filler; a race no one would miss if it disappeared. No Derby winner ever goes back the following year to run in it, not that many winners of 'the world's greatest horse race' even stay in training after their 3-year old career, a bitter sadness in itself and a reflection on the ambitions of those who own the best horses. All the other Group races should also be raised to Group 1's, encouraging owners and trainers to test their better horses on a racecourse which is on the tricky side of difficult to handle.
But where Epsom could elevate the Derby and the Derby meeting into a special place in the sporting calendar is to mix the 'quality' races with richly endowed handicaps - hence reintroducing the Great Met as a unique race - and organising with bookmakers a special Scoop 6 type bet with a million pound guaranteed pot, which would obviously roll-over if not won - marketed on the scale of Lotto. Use the Derby to draw in viewers from outside of racing. To interest the female their might even be the most valuable race in the world restricted to female jockeys, the same for apprentice jockeys to encourage young males to think of racing as a career.
Epsom are lazy. Outside of the Derby meeting Epsom is no different to Brighton, Bath or Windsor. Even the 'Amateur's Derby' run in the autumn has been allowed to wither on the vine.
Flat racing rarely throws up a truly great horse, a horse the public takes to their hearts and when it does, as with Frankel, they never race at Epsom, not even in the Derby and never in the Coronation Cup. Of course the owners of Derby winners are in it for the money and are gutless and without the ambition to find out how truly good their horse are. Sea The Stars is a case in point. Nothing else to prove, they said, as he went off to stud to earn millions upon millions in stud fees. Not that he won a race giving away weight, only receiving weight. Didn't do much as a two-year-old, and never stayed in training so that it could be proved he was better than the next generation of 3-year-olds. Golden Horn, the same. The Coolmore Derby winners, the same. I could go on.
But I digress. The Epsom Derby, the greatest horse race. No. Every race at the Cheltenham Festival is greater, many by a long distance. The same with Royal Ascot. The Melbourne Cup, now that is a great horse race. The Epsom Derby greater than the Grand National? There are not enough expressions of derision to do justice to such a claim. Epsom are not only lazy but delusional. Which goes a good way to explaining why they live so much in the past.