Ed’s full English: Ed Walker heads to Epsom seeking Investec Derby glory for favourite English King alongside Frankie Dettori
- Trainer Ed Walker is seeking glory in the Derby on Saturday with English King
- The 37-year-old is hoping Frankie Dettori can see the 7-2 favourite to victory
- Walker has admitted that he is inexperiened as he seeks his first Group One win
- The prestigious £500,000 race will take place without crowds this year
Less than years after questioning where his career was going, trainer Ed Walker could this afternoon win the most prestigious prize in Flat racing.
The 37-year-old heads to a crowd-free Epsom seeking victory in the £500,000 Investec Derby with 7-2 favourite English King and with Frankie Dettori in his corner.
It is a scenario Walker could not have dared to dream about as his training career threatened to be derailed by a nomadic existence that only ended when he moved into the Kingsdown House stables of English King’s owner Bjorn Nielsen in December 2016.
Ed Walker is banking on English King and Frankie Dettori to provide him with a first Derby win
Walker admits that five yards in six years had a destabilising effect on his routine and results
Five yards in six years, including a stint renting part of the famous Warren Place yard from where the late Sir Henry Cecil dominated British racing, had had a destabilising effect.
‘The insecurity and the uncertainty was pretty grim,’ recalls Walker. ‘I had four stables in Newmarket. Even when I moved to Warren Place I knew that was only going to be a temporary stop.
‘It was a wonderful address and great history but kind of embarrassing having some of my moderate horses in those boxes.
‘When I had to leave I was buying yearlings not knowing where they were going to be trained.
He confesses that he was surprised at the manner of English King’s triumph at Linfield
‘It was impossible to get into any sort of routine. My results crashed at the end of that season. I was driving around the country looking at yards, wondering whether we were going to move to Chantilly or Yorkshire. I didn’t know what we were going to do. It was a nightmare.
‘There was a point where I thought, “I can’t deal with this any more”.’
An escape was offered by Nielsen, who was looking for someone to replace David Lanigan, who was heading back to Newmarket, and the agreement was sealed during a flying visit to meet his prospective landlord in New York.
Nielsen, a hedge-fund trader and investor, has won a St Leger with John Gosden-trained Masked Marvel in 2011 but the best-known horse to carry his colours is the triple Ascot Gold Cup winner Stradivarius, which he also bred.
But Nielsen’s biggest desire is to own a Derby winner. English King, a son of 2012 Derby winner Camelot who cost €210,000, was a 66-1 shot for Epsom before last month’s Lingfield Derby Trial and soon became the 6-1 joint favourite when he emerged the smooth two-and-three-quarter-length victor of the race won by last year’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck.
Walker said: ‘With Bjorn it is very straightforward — he buys these colts for one reason and for one reason only, and that is to win the Derby.
‘I would be lying if I said I thought English King was going to win like he did at Lingfield. It was only after getting home, watching the replays and seeing the times that you appreciated it and thought, “Crikey, that was a fairly serious performance”.’
If English King wins, he will not only deliver a first Classic for Walker but also a first Group One win.
It is that relative inexperience, plus Nielsen’s link to Dettori, which led to the two time- winning rider replacing Tom Marquand, who was on English King at Lingfield but who will now have his first Derby ride on Khalifa Sat. It will be Dettori’s 25th Derby.
Walker, a former assistant to dual Derby-winning trainer Luca Cumani, added: ‘They are worlds apart in terms of experience and I am totally inexperienced as well.
‘I can’t pat someone on the back and say this is what you need to do, because this is my first Derby runner.
‘I said to Tom, “You should be rooting for this horse because there is a good chance you will get back on him one day, because Frankie won’t be available and if I win the Derby I am likely to have more Derby chances and you and I will be a team partnering up a lot’.
‘We are going into it with a horse we know stays, are pretty sure will handle the track and should enjoy the ground. We also have the world’s greatest Group One jockey on board.
‘The big question is, is he good enough?’