04th June 2015

Staging the Investec Derby Festival: a real team effort

You could say that preparations for the Investec Derby start the day after the previous running, but we don’t start the final preparations until just over two weeks before big event.

We would love to have the time to prepare that our Jockey Club colleagues at Aintree and Cheltenham do, but because the Act of Parliament that protects the Downs we have limited time.

Because of this, everything you see that forms part of the Derby Festival comes together in about 10 working days. I still haven't worked out how the team does it! That's also a period where the weather can be your friend or your enemy.

We have been lucky with a dry start to the this year’s build, which allowed us to get ahead and helped the ground stay dry. This is probably the one area where Andrew Cooper, Clerk of the Course and I differ. He wants the rain, I don’t!

Early starts and team briefings

On the two days of the Festival, I and my colleagues will get on site by 5-5.30. We will then sit down as a team and go through what needs to be done. We spend that early morning time getting everyone in the right mindset. We will have done plenty of briefings in the build up but it is that last minute briefing that sets the event up.

Gates don’t open until 11 so we have that time to make sure the stewarding is in place, that everywhere is clean and tidy, and that we are able to do any last minute things that might have been missed. Then the gates open and we are underway.

There is a big turnaround from Friday into Saturday to get everything ready for Derby Day. It is not helped by the fact that we have limited time to prepare the Queen’s Stand and the Duchess Stand before we hand the buildings over to be searched and prepared for the Royal party.

On Saturday we will start early again, but we won’t be the only ones. There will be people arriving on the hill from 6-7 o’clock. They will bring their breakfasts and bag their favourite spot. Then the coaches will start to join them and Investec Derby Day will be underway. The Family enclosure this year will include a helter skelter, a big top and donkey rides. This is what makes the Investec Derby special, there are so many ways to experience it.

A real team effort 

It is not just the Epsom team who deliver this event, each year we are joined by Jockey Club colleagues from Sandown Park and Kempton, and also from Cheltenham, Aintree & Newmarket. It is one huge collaborative effort, as with many of our big events.

The great thing about working for The Jockey Club is that I have worked at almost as many Crabbie’s Grand Nationals as I have Investec Derbys. I go to Liverpool to help and am here to welcome my colleagues as they come to Epsom to return the favour.