ONLY after a pre-Derby slap-up meal did Ed Walker truly realise he trained the favourite for the Epsom showpiece.
After calling on star jockey Frankie Dettori to partner his English King on Saturday/today, the team assembled at Walker’s Lambourn base for dinner and the occasion soon sunk in for the Derby rookie.
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The yard belongs to English King’s owner Bjorn Nielsen and it was the first time the trio gathered to discuss Epsom.
Dettori was to sit on the horse for the very first time the next morning and Walker soon realised it was all getting a bit serious.
He said: “I wasn’t really nervous beforehand, but I was a bit before this as English King isn’t the flashiest of workers at home and I thought maybe Frankie wouldn’t be impressed?
“Frankie came and stayed over the night before and we all had dinner, which was special.
“It was great fun. We spoke about Stradivarius for about three hours and English King for about five minutes!
“You know what Frankie’s like, he’s quite a calming influence, he’s got such a wealth of experience in these situations. He loved the horse thankfully.”
Landlord Nielsen was brought up in Epsom and there has always been the one race he wants to win as an owner more than any other – the Derby.
Stradivarius may be his pride and joy, but English King could yet top them all if he can land the biggest Flat race of all.
And for the trainer it would be a clear career highlight. Walker has had a runner in the 2000 Guineas, but never in the Derby and is yet to win a Group 1.
Walker added: “I was cool as a cucumber until a few days ago but from then on it’s hit me.
“There was zero attention until Ascot was over and then all the attention just panned on to the Derby.
“And I’m not used to it unlike someone like Frankie who just lives in the media. It’s funny when you have the magnifying glass on you and obviously the announcement of Frankie changed everything, it feels more pressurised now.”
Walker has already changed stables four times in ten years – a number most trainers don’t reach in their entire careers.
But a move to Lambourn and the historic Kingsdown Stables – owned by Nielsen – may be the last time he has to call on the removal men, especially if he can win the Derby for his landlord!
Walker added: “This is our fourth season here and things have gradually picked up. Bjorn is a great landlord – he’s a friend, he’s an owner and we have a real laugh and we see a lot of each other.
“I would love to win the Derby for myself, but for Bjorn too.
“With a horse in his colours from our own stable, to fulfill his lifelong dream will also probably mean I don’t have to move yard ever again, thank god!”