THERE are big races, there are many other Classics, but there is only one Derby.
It’s very hard to put into words just what it would mean to me, my family and everyone involved with our stable if we were to join the roll of honour.
Andrew Balding is hoping for a momentous family achievement on Saturday
Success for Balding would follow dad Ian training Mill Reef to Derby glory in 1971
The Foxes could not have trained better, says Andrew Balding
I grew up with the statue of Mill Reef standing proudly in the yard and his picture everywhere around the house.
My dad would love to talk about him, and why wouldn’t he? He was an incredible horse who gave so much joy to so many people.
We were aware from a young age just how amazing his achievements were.
He won the Coventry at Royal Ascot as a two-year-old and went on to win the Derby 12 months later.
That is unheard of in this day and age, never mind going on to win an Eclipse, a King George and the Arc de Triomphe. It’s the stuff of legend.
I think about the way my dad will have had to train him for those big races back in the day compared to now.
There were no all-weather gallops and he would have had to get him fit on grass no matter the weather. We have life a lot easier these days!
It was a golden era for British racing back in the early 7’s, with Mill Reef knocking heads with Brigadier Gerard and Nijinsky was around the year before them.
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Who knows if there will ever be another horse capable of doing what he did again?
Anyone even loosely involved or interested in the sport is aware of the rich and very long history and prestige of the Derby.
Alright, this year we have had to move to a slightly early start time because of a clash with the FA Cup final, but its significance in this country would be up there with that competition.
It’s going to make for a slightly different Derby day, no doubt, but it looks as open and as fascinating a race as we have had in a while.
We couldn’t be happier with how The Foxes has been training and he did a nice easy piece of work on Wednesday.
When you get close to a big race like this you constantly have your heart in your mouth and just pray nothing goes wrong.
You only get one shot at this race.
Our record in the Derby is a funny one — we have gone there with some big chances over the years but it’s our outsiders who have gone closest.
We thought Bonfire had a great chance back in 2012 after he’d won the Dante, but he ran a very poor race on the day.
Elm Park was another we thought had an excellent chance and Kameko went off favourite and could only finish fourth.
Last year we had Hoo Ya Mal and Masekela who ran well above expectations and Khalifa Sat was second at a huge price.
I thought at the time that all of our fancied ones had all the attributes to win the race, I thought they’d handle the track and the trip and the atmosphere.
You never know until you try but I hope The Foxes has everything you require to win it, otherwise we wouldn’t have been targeting this race for such a long time.
And it’s about time we had a fancied one go close!
It was a relief to win the Dante with him and he has come on again for the run.
On the face of it the third, Passenger, looked a little unlucky at York, but I like to think we would have beaten him anyway.
You have to rate anything that Sir Michael Stoute runs in the race as a big danger, especially when they’ve supplemented him for £85,000!
I think Military Order has ticked every box so far and Charlie Appleby has won the race a couple of times and knows what it takes.
The fact he is Godolphin’s number one candidate speaks volume. I’d say they are two very big threats.
But it’s open and there are seven or eight who you wouldn’t be surprised if they won.
That’s how a Derby should be, there are lots of unanswered questions going there and we will find out on the day who is the best of the lot.
It goes without saying that it would mean everything if he were to get the job done.
If you don’t win it, as a trainer, it would leave a void that no other race can fill, but we will keep trying even if this year is not our year.
But who knows . . . maybe this time next year dear old Mill Reef will have some company with a statue of The Foxes.