Sporting Post readers will be treated to high-class photography from the world-famous biggest flat race of the British season on Saturday when dual Equus Award-winning photographer Candiese Lenferna attends the 2023 Betfred Gr1 Epsom Derby.
Candiese jets out on Monday from her Durban base and will attend the two days of the Derby Festival 2023 which will begin on Friday 2 June at Epsom Downs Racecourse, with the first event being the popular Ladies Day.
Derby Day features seven races, including the much trumped greatest flat race in the world.
Besides having Africa’s leading horseracing photographer there on the spot capturing the stride-by-stride action, the 27-year-old Hollywoodbets-sponsored Danny Muscutt will bid to make it an all-Africa occasion by becoming what is believed to be the first African-born rider to taste victory in the world-famous Classic when partnering the Charlie Johnston-trained colt Dubai Mile, who is rated a 14-1 chance by the sponsors.
And Danny’s proud Dad Peter saddled three winners at Hollywoodbets Greyville’s dual Gr1 raceday on Saturday, to set the tone for what could be a magic Muscutt week!
Racing TV report that tackling international marathons in Europe and South Africa features on the bucket list of Dan Muscutt, but he hopes Dubai Mile can demonstrate stamina is his forte by securing what he says would be a ‘dream come true’ with big-race victory on his Betfred Derby debut.
While the marathon shoes are never far away – he took up distance running to help aid his recovery back from injury in 2018 – Muscutt is fully focused on the assignment with Dubai Mile as the QIPCO 2000 Guineas fifth looks to continue his upward curve.
And having secured a first Gr1 success on the son of Roaring Lion in last year’s Criterium de Saint-Cloud, the Zimbabwean-born rider hopes he can enjoy another milestone moment aboard the colt to continue what has been a remarkable few seasons in the saddle.
Muscutt said: “I broke a bone in my neck among a few other things in a fall back in 2018 at Chelmsford and I used running to get my weight back down. I got into it a little bit that way and it snowballed from there really.
“I’ve now done lots of half marathons and I did a full one in Valencia in December last year. It gives you an avenue away from racing and something to concentrate on, which is good for your head.
“I’ve not got anything in the pipeline, but there is one in Switzerland they do on New Year’s Eve where you set out at midnight as it goes into the new year which sounds quite cool.
“I would like to do the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, which goes from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, if I ever got the chance.
“As for the Derby, this is my first ride in the race and I’m excited. These are the races you grow up watching on the television and dream you will be in one day.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to it. I know the horse very well and I have a lot of confidence in him.
“I’ve ridden plenty of winners at Epsom, just not one in the Derby. The race is one of the pinnacles of our season and it would be huge to have on the CV and it would be a dream come true.”
Muscutt acknowledges the sense of pride he would feel should Betfred Derby glory head his way, but the jockey – who rode a personal best annual total of 127 domestic winners last year – admits it would mean more if he could share that success with owner Ahmad Al Shaikh.
Muscutt said: “It was a relief to finally win a Group One last year when winning aboard Dubai Mile in France.
“We were playing out all scenarios as to what race to run him in but Charlie and Ahmad came to that decision to go for the 10-furlong race at Saint-Cloud and it proved the right one.
“It was very deep testing ground and on the afternoon they were making a beeline for the stand side rail. I met Arrest at the two pole and we had a sustained battle to the end but he was very tough in sticking his neck out.
“I was very proud and very grateful as to get rides in those races is hard enough, so to win one was unbelievable.
“It was great to share my first Group One with his owner Ahmad Al Shaikh. He has shown lots of faith in me and it was nice to reward him like that.
“Ahmad loves the Derby and he has finished second in the race with two big-priced horses in Khalifa Sat and Hoo Ya Mal.
“This would be by far his best chance of a winner in the race and it would be great to be the one to deliver him victory in it.”
Dubai Mile is “under the radar” for the Betfred Derby, Muscutt told us earlier this week
Purchased for just 20,000 euros at the Goffs Orby yearling sale in 2021, Dubai Mile is the definition of a bargain buy.
And although he gave Muscutt an inclination he could be a good horse when the pair first teamed up at Windsor that view was not solidified until later on.
Muscutt said: “I’d never sat on him before I won on him at Windsor and he impressed me with what he was able to do.
“He was green through the early stages but when a horse came to him at the three pole he really quickened up well and his closing sectionals were pretty rapid as well. He gave me a good feeling on very quick ground.
“We still didn’t know if he would scale these heights but thankfully he kept improving every run after that to end up finishing second in the Royal Lodge and winning his Group One in France.”
It is often said the 2000 Guineas is the best trial for the Derby and, having been pleased with his performance on the Rowley Mile at the start of the month, Muscutt feels that Dubai Mile should be more at home now stepped up to a more suitable trip.
He said: “We were happy with him going into the Guineas and he ran a stormer. Some people say that the Guineas is the best Derby trial of the lot and it probably fitted in slightly better than the Dante, where he would have had a penalty.
“He was just as good, if not better, than he felt last year when he was second in the Royal Lodge. He popped away from the front end and he really enjoyed himself.
“I was pleased with how he stuck on up the rising ground and he galloped out really good.
“What has just struck me is how tough he is mentally and what a game and gutsy horse he is. He has very much got that work ethic that the Johnston’s instil into them.
“I’ve won on several generations of his family which is quite unique and they have been anything from six-furlong horses to mile-and-a-half ones.
“I think his character would lend itself to staying a mile and a half. He doesn’t waste any fuel or energy pre-race. He has a very good, calm character which is important at Epsom.
“The Dip at Newmarket can catch some horses out but he has handled it great both times, so he ticks the boxes regarding being able to handle the undulations and downhill run to Tattenham Corner.
“Speaking to Charlie and the team recently they couldn’t be happier with him and his weight is where we want it to be.”
Hailing from a racing background, a career working with horses was always likely to be the route for Muscutt despite being a keen rugby player as a youth.
And after years of hard work and graft Muscutt, who married his partner Clare last year, feels he is finally being noticed with the better rides he is getting that have helped accelerate his career over the past few seasons and hopefully for future campaigns.
He added: “My family are all very much involved in racing, mainly in South Africa. My grandfather was a jockey as was my uncle. My father had dreams of being a jockey but he was deemed too big but he is smaller than me!
“My dad has had a deep involvement within the game and he recently trained his first Group One winner in South Africa. I’m yet to ride a winner for him but that is quite big on the list of things to do.
“I would tag along with him going racing until me, mum and sister moved here in the early 2000s. Being a jockey was something I could always see myself doing but I was quite into my rugby at school where I actually played flanker.
“I’ve been fortunate over the last couple of years that the quality of horse I’m getting on has increased. It has not been something that has appeared overnight. It has been seven, eight, nine years in the making.
“I feel like I’ve worked hard to get where I am and pick up rides like Dubai Mile. I’m grateful to be repaying those that have had faith in me and hopefully I will continue to do so.”
Racing TV – additional reporting by Sporting Post editorial staff.