Quiet Roger Varian hoping Third Realm can do talking on Epsom track as he bigs up 'one of most iconic races in world'

UNASSUMING Roger Varian might be the last person you’d expect to bring back the Derby buzz.

If his Third Realm takes home the Epsom showpiece next weekend, don’t hold out for any Paul Gascgoine style celebrations.


The measured Newmarket maestro is careful with his words and not one to get overly animated before or after a race.

But this is the Derby, and even Roger is bubbling with excitement underneath the maths teacher look with a crowd of 4,000 expected back on the Downs. He’s done his sums and worked out The Derby is still the biggest and best show in town.

He said: “It’s still the pinnacle for any horse, I truly believe that. It’s one of the most iconic races in the world across our industry and I think it will always be the best race to test the ability of a horse and the ambition of a trainer or a jockey.

“And I think this year it’s a fascinating Derby too and an open one on top of that. But I do think it’s a very good one too.

“If you look at the horses coming from Ireland, the likes of Mac Swiney and of course Aidan’s, and then all the Newmarket horses – you can make a case for so many.

“We’re delighted to be involved in it, but even if I wasn’t I would be super excited to watch as there are a lot of different types of horses in the mix. From a racing fan point of view it looks like a fascinating race on paper.”

Varian, 42, is in his 11th season as a trainer having taken over from long-time mentor Michael Jarvis.

The trainer and his wife Hanako, with three kids Momoka, Eiji and Reika, moved to Carlburg Stables in 2017 and have over 200 horses in their care.

The team have 17 Group 1s to their name but surprisingly have only ever had one runner in the Derby. Then again, Varian has never been one to turn up to the party uninvited.

His one dart at Epsom glory was just three years into his career when Kingston Hill was agonisingly beaten by Australia in 2014.

Varian said: “I remember Kingston Hill’s Derby very well, it was a very special day.

“He was a wonderful horse and we were so happy with him going into it, but we were praying for more rain as he had a good record on it.

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“Just days before I was looking non-stop at the weather app. Even on the way down to Epsom I remember someone ringing from close by saying ‘it’s pouring down, we’re outside our hotel and the umbrella is up!’

“We were relatively young and new at the game at the time and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a little bittersweet getting so close and maybe naively we thought we’d be back next year with another one.

“But you come to the realisation that these Derby horses are extremely hard to find. Each year goes by and you rue what might have been with Kingston Hill but it was an experience that I’ll remember forever.”

Well seven years later and Varian is back with a colt he is happy to hype as a genuine contender.

After he dominated the Lingfield Derby Trial, Third Realm booked his ticket to the big one and modest Varian is sure his three-year-old can do the talking on the track.

Lurking in the shadows and available at a whopping 100-1 before his win in Surrey, he emerged from the gloom in style and is now only a general 10-1 for the Classic.

Varian said: “He has an outstanding attitude for a race like the Derby and I think that’s vital in these big races that you don’t waste energy. Whether that’s in the paddock, going to the start, behind the gates, the first two furlongs.

“He’s got a great mind for the job. We’re still to learn whether he’s got the engine to bring home the Derby, but I know he’s got the mind for it.

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“He’s not a big horse, he’s medium-sized at best, he’s a neat horse. He’s very well balanced, he’s got great gate speed, we know he’ll get the trip.

“Smallish horses have won the Derby before, he’ll suit the race. A lot of the boxes going into the race you want ticked, he’s got them.”

Even the reserved Varian can’t wait for Epsom next week and he is set to have three runners in the Oaks for good measure. Teona and Zeyadaah are well-fancied for the fillies’ Classic and Save A Forest would be a lively outsider.

And their trainer hopes his stars can help bring back the glory days of the Epsom showpiece. Varian would struggle to sell out a show at the Apollo, but is keen for the Derby to be the hottest ticket in town again.

He continued: “In the last 20 years the Derby has faced challenges from outside of the sport in terms of how it’s perceived amongst the general public, other sports have become stronger in the public eye.

“Next week the Derby will clash with various other headline sporting acts. I’m not advocating it needs to go back to a Wednesday but back in the day it wouldn’t quite be Melbourne Cup style where it stopped the country, but it had special attention and on in probably a lot more households than it does now.

“I don’t think that’s a reflection on the race, but sadly on racing as a whole. If we can somehow push its profile up again amongst the general public, I don’t think it’s lost any of its touch amongst the industry, I would love it to reach more people as it’s such a special race.”

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