David Griffiths reunited with Derby hero William Buick

IT is entirely fitting that newly-crowned Epsom Derby-winning jockey William Buick should partner Duke Of Firenze for Bawtry trainer David Griffiths in today's feature sprint at Haydock.

David Griffiths: Happy to engage William Buick.

After all, Griffiths was, in fact, Buick’s tutor at Northern Racing College as the baby-faced jockey completed his apprentice rider’s course before taking out his professional licence.

How times have changed since that first encounter in 2006. Buick, 29, is now first rider to Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and enjoyed the most significant success of his career when Masar prevailed last Saturday at Epsom while Griffiths, himself a former jockey, is now an accomplished trainer who specialises in Flat sprinters with his wife Sophie.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“I just remember he was about four-and- a-half-foot tall and weighed five stone,” Griffiths told The Yorkshire Post. “You could tell straight away that he was a natural talent. You could tell he was going to be special if he kept his head down and worked hard.

“The Derby was great for him, great for racing and great for Godolphin because they’ve put so much into the sport and been rewarded by their iconic blue colours being carried to victory by William. Amazing, brilliant, great. I’ve known William for a long time since Northern Racing College. I rang up his agent to see if he was available and was very pleased to get him.”

Like the veteran Take Cover who remains a standard-bearer for the Griffiths yard, Duke of Firenze, now nine, is still competing at the top despite his advancing years.

Yet, while the William Haggas-trained Muthhmir and Alpha Delphini from Bryan Smart’s Hambleton yard are worthy adversaries today, Duke Of Firenze had no luck in the Epsom Dash last Saturday when denied a clear run at a crucial stage.

This is the horse’s 52nd start, the gelding has already amassed over £200,000, and Griffiths added: “We go there with a degree of confidence. He’s one who thrives on his racing.”

Middleham trainer Mark Johnston, whose Dee Ex Bee was second to Buick’s mount Masar in the Derby, saddles Victory Command and No Lippy in his quest to claim two of the biggest prizes of the season at Beverley.

Victory Command lines up in the £35,000 Brian Yeardley Two-Year-Old Trophy, a renowned trial for Royal Ascot, with the trainer’s son, and assistant, Charlie saying the horse “has a leading chance” on ratings.

Stablemate No Lippy then runs in the historic Hilary Needler Trophy, a race won in 2003 by the Johnston yard’s subsequent Classic heroine Attraction.

The filly, owned by Barbara and Allick Richmond, has won three times already this season and Johnston junior added: “She’s a fantastic advertisement for getting a horse out and running. She takes her races very well and when the entries came out for the Hilary Needler it was always the idea to go to Beverley. Royal Ascot is certainly on the agenda. She makes us very proud.”