Epsom chiefs defend controversial firework display minutes before Derby after strong criticism from punters and jockeys

EPSOM chiefs have defended the fireworks display that took place moments before the Derby started.

The rockets were let off from the top of the famous grandstand as the runners made their way to the start.

Horses are flight animals and typically spooked by sudden and loud noises.

Thankfully the majority of the field had made it to the mile and a half start, the other side of Epsom.

But a handful of runners seemed to be effected by the fireworks and it has led to criticism from those who witnessed the events, both in the race and from the sidelines.

Smoke was also let off as the fireworks were sent into the sky and, unconnected, a number of protesters also made it onto the track at the same time.

But a Jockey Club spokesperson defended the display and said it was all part of the 'special atmosphere.'

A statement said: "The Derby is the greatest Flat race in the world and we will always aim to create a special atmosphere.

"The pre-race show was thoroughly tested in advance and both timed and placed with our participants in mind.

"However, part of constantly striving to improve any major event is to evaluate and we will take all feedback on board in our planning process for next year."

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Rosie Margarson, who was at the track and is an amateur jockey, tweeted: "There was no warning and they were incredibly loud. Even the horses in the stables weren’t ok with it.

"People don’t come racing for firework displays they come racing for horses.

"Horses hate fireworks. Why on Earth are we combining the two?"

Nahanni was one horse who was slow away from the stalls and unable to get competitive after a sluggish start.


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His rider Adam Kirby has blamed the fireworks but winning rider Richard Kingscote said his horse was not bothered by the noise.

And Desert Crown's owner's racing manager Bruce Raymond confirmed as much despite his horse sweating before the off.

He said: "He was one that started to sweat late, quite a lot of other horse were sweating down there as they would do, it's a long way down to the start, but he was very cool and calm until the stall handlers got hold of him.

"He was just sweating a bit then but it wasn't dripping down his neck, just on his belly a bit.

"I don't know whether that was the fireworks or not, that was a bit of a silly thing, but he's a very cool customer anyway.

"When he were saddling him he was just so easy, he doesn't jig about, he's nice and calm."


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