Commentary box stalwart Des Scahill preparing for his final Irish Derby

Fri 29 Jun 2018
 Des Scahill will call his 47th and final Irish Derby on Saturday (Racingfotos)
Des Scahill will call his 47th and final Irish Derby on Saturday (Racingfotos)

Veteran commentator Des Scahill will call the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby for the 47th and final time at the Curragh on Saturday.

Scahill has presided over the Classic on either radio or television since 1971, without missing a year.

In his role Scahill has seen some of the best horses of the last 50 years take in the Derby – but does one stand out above the rest?

“The best horse I’ve ever seen was Nijinsky. He won the Triple Crown and an Irish Derby (in 1970). You only need to see the horses who have tried since to realise how good he was, to win a Guineas and a St Leger, as well at at Epsom and the Curragh,” said Scahill.

The incomparable Nijinsky made a big impact on Des Scahill
The incomparable Nijinsky made a big impact on Des Scahill

“Shergar was a brilliant Derby winner, both of them (Epsom and Curragh in 1981), but St Jovite’s win (1992), when he smashed the track record, was something else. Watching it you thought he had to come back to the field, but he just kept on going.

“It used to be such a spectacle, as you nearly always used to get the first four from Epsom, there’d be lots of speculation about how the form would be turned around and inevitably it would happen.

“Several Epsom winners got beat at the Curragh, because they are very different tracks.”

Epsom hero Shergar went on to shine at the Curragh
Epsom hero Shergar went on to shine at the Curragh

He added: “I remember one year there was a bomb scare when Sir Harry Lewis won (1987) and when the crowd were going out there seemed to be thousands, at a guess I’d say about 25-30,000.

“You don’t get as many now, but that is down to the great coverage you can get on TV these days. RTE and At The Races do a great job.”

In the last decade Aidan O’Brien won the race seven times in succession, something which may have contributed to the current trend for smaller fields.

The best horse I've ever seen was Nijinsky Des Scahill

“Because of Aidan’s domination of the race it probably isn’t the same spectacle it once was, we certainly don’t get as many French runners, for example,” said Scahill.

“But Aidan’s job as an individual is to win as many big races as he can.”

This year’s renewal is missing the Epsom winner, Masar, but runner-up Dee Ex Bee is in line to face O’Brien’s Saxon Warrior, the Qipco 2000 Guineas winner.

Guineas hero Saxon Warrior is hot favourite for the Irish Derby
Guineas hero Saxon Warrior is hot favourite for the Irish Derby

“It’s easy to say some horses don’t take to Epsom, which is what they’ve said for Saxon Warrior (fourth at Epsom), but I always think Epsom suits a Guineas winner,” said Scahill.

“I don’t think he ever looked comfortable and he didn’t come home to any effect that you could say he was unlucky. I think the market is crazy, he’s taking on the horse who was second and seemed to be staying on as if the Curragh will suit him well.

“I won’t say Saxon Warrior won’t win, but I wouldn’t want to be taking odds-on about him.

“I’ve seen plenty of odds-on shots get beaten in 47 years. I’ve had a decent innings and I’ll still be around until the Oaks in July, so I’ll probably see a few more.”

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