24th May 2022

The Most Dramatic Derby Of All Time?

1962 Derby - Larkspur

The Derby of 1962 was among the most dramatic ever run. Seven of the 26 runners fell or were brought down on the run to Tattenham Corner. This included the favourite Hethersett, the Lingfield Derby Trial winner Pindaric and the Guineas second Romulus.

Sadly, one of the fallers, King Canute, broke a leg and had to be put down. Six of the seven jockeys ended up in hospital. The sole exception was Bobby Elliott, the rider of Pindaric. Years later, when asked what he remembered of the incident and the moments leading up to it, Elliott provided a step-by-step analysis.

“There were 26 runners that year, which is a big field for Epsom. If you looked through the form there were only about five who’d get the mile and a half. They were nearly all milers and they went off at mile pace. The staying horses such as mine were all running at the back. There were all these fast horses in front of us, and the ones who were going to get the trip couldn’t stay up with them.

“They were at the top of the hill, about six furlongs out and just starting to run down, when they all concertinaed and there was nowhere to go. I’d just started to run as the leaders were coming back. I was going to go right round on the outside and try to drop in before Tattenham Corner, but I thought I’d wait and see what Harry Carr was going to do on Hethersett. Then, the next second, a horse clipped the heels of the one in front and went down. Harry went down, I’ve gone over the top of him, and three horses have fallen behind me. And that was it; all over, simple as that.

“The funny thing is that, in that instant when I saw Harry go down, I thought, ‘well, there’s the favourite gone, I might win now’. I don’t know how I thought I was going to get out of it but that’s what went through my mind. It was a terrible fall, I rolled and rolled, but maybe it was because I felt so relaxed when it happened that I walked away without a scratch. All the other jockeys were taken to hospital.”

What happened?

The incident occurred at a point of the course where there were no photographers. The TV coverage of the 1962 Derby also missed it; hence Elliott’s recollection of the incident remains the most authentic and reliable testimony.

The eventual winner, 22-1 chance Larkspur, narrowly avoided disaster. He was alongside Hethersett when the favourite went down. Larkspur went on to score by two lengths, giving trainer Vincent O’Brien his first Derby winner. O’Brien thereby joined the select group who have trained winners of both the Derby and the Grand National.

Larkspur had been bought by O’Brien as a yearling for 12,200 guineas for American owner Raymond Guest. He was the first son of a Derby winner (his sire was Never Say Die) to win the Derby since Mahmoud (by Blenheim) in 1936.

Neville Sellwood

The Winning Jockey

He was a chance ride for Australian Neville Sellwood in the 1962 Derby, with O’Brien’s stable jockey, fellow Australian Pat Glennon, electing to ride Larkspur’s stablemate Sebring, who finished fifth.

As for the unlucky favourite Hethersett and his rider, the royal jockey Harry Carr, they gained a measure of compensation by winning that year’s St Leger.

Tragically, Neville Sellwood died just five months later following a fall in a race in France.