When visitors climb the stairs to the Trainer's House at the National Heritage Centre there is a very large vibrant photograph of the 2007 Winter Derby which was won by Gentleman’s Deal.
Gentleman’s Deal, by Danehill, is the horse in the centre of the photograph (his rider Paul Mulrennan is wearing a yellow cap). He was trained by Mick Easterby in Yorkshire.
The Winter Derby was established in 1998 as a flat race for horses aged 4 years and older over 1 mile 2 furlongs to be run in February or March. It was first won by Running Stag trained by Philip Mitchell and ridden by Ray Cochrane. The race is run on an All Weather Surface at Lingfield Park Racecourse in Surrey. In 1999 the Winter Derby progressed to a listed race and from 2006 it became a Group 3 – the first Group Race of the year.
Before Gentleman’s Deal won the 2007 Winter Derby, the six year old stallion had an unusual mid-season break when he covered 40 mares at Norton Grove Stud.
As a yearling he was bought for 460,000gns by Gainsborough Stud Management. Unraced as a 2 year old, he opened his account at 3 years in a 7 furlong race at Chepstow, trained by Ed Dunlop. He then went to Wolverhampton and won on the All Weather over 1m1½f.
He missed the 2005 season and was bought out of Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale for 26,000gns by Mick Easterby for owner Stephen Curtis.
Mick Easterby sent him to win at Southwell on New Year’s Day 2006 and in mid January to win at Wolverhampton. In the spring he was one of the favourites at 10/1 to run well in the Lincoln Handicap, which that year was held at Redcar but could only finish 21st of 30 runners. Doncaster had been closed at the time due to redevelopment.
After this poor run it was decided that he should go to Norton Grove Stud for the first time. When he returned to training he failed to shine on the turf – but a return to the All Weather in early December 2006 yielded better results with three successive wins in quick time, the first two at Southwell followed by a listed victory at Kempton all over 1 mile.
Sent off the 4/1 joint favourite for the 2007 Winter Derby on 24 March Gentleman’s Deal produced his best ever performance. Hanging on gamely by a neck, he beat the 25/1 outsider Grand Passion, a horse he had recently beaten in his listed win at Kempton.
After the Winter Derby Paul Mulrennan was full of praise for the winner ‘He’s been a good horse for me as he has given me my first listed winner and now my first group win. He’s a machine – I’ve never sat on one like him before and though there were lots of horses around him when I pushed the button he picked up for me’.
Let’s hope the 2020 Winter Derby is as exciting as the photograph which hangs on the landing wall!
Blog by Jenny Barley, Visitor Services Team