← Back Published on

2019 Mongol Derby: Top Trumps

*EDIT: I can’t remember who took this photo. If it was you can you let me know so I can credit you?  Otherwise I'll presume it's one of Richard's (https://richarddunwoodyphotogr...)*

Mongol Derby 2019 - Top Trumps

If anyone were to ask me who is going to win the 2019 Mongol Derby the short answer is, who knows?

The long answer is, who knows? But you can definitely make a shortlist of likely candidates from the rider bios, as plenty of former Derbyists do every year. The qualities that matter are:

This doesn’t mean “flying changes” and it definitely doesn’t mean “sitting on a horse trained by somebody else to do flying changes while you press the button you’ve been taught to press”. I mean no disrespect to dressage or dressage riders, but you get my point. It means the ability to get on anything, get to where you’re going while doing what you need to do, and then get off. Jockeys excel here, as do people who start horses for a living but people who do old fashioned horse work (mustering, for example) will often do better than top level competition riders.

The real “every horse is a lesson” variety. Extra points if you’re so good that other people pay you for your advice (but zero points if you’re a charlatan who people pay to give them bad advice. Not thinking of any Derbyist I know of but again, you get my point). The best riders will have had to make do with whatever they’ve got and will know how much is too much for whatever they’re on.

How important this skill is depends on the course, but some ability to use a GPS is helpful. Helps if you bring one (one rider last year confused crew by asking if they could download the course files on to his phone. Er, no).

Many of the best riders/horsemen/women don’t finish anywhere near the front. Some of the average riders will finish further up the field than anyone expected. How much does each rider want to win? Impossible to know until after the first couple of days once riders know what that means.

As in, the ability to keep buggering on. Outside, in difficult conditions when you’re tired and sore. Preferably without whinging. Stalwarts of the hunt field make an excellent showing in this category. This is something I imagine to be a given for the winner, but is a great divider at the back of the field and can often be the difference between finishing the race and not.

Often neglected, but it really matters. Crossfit and marathon running won’t help you if you can’t ride and the horses have it in for you but this is another “a given for the winner, difference between finishing and flunking” skill.

From reading the rider bios, here’s my shortlist. But remember, these are autobiographies... and the magic of the derby is that some riders will discover abilities they never knew they had, while others receive some harsh reality checks.

- Sam Chisholm
- Jesse Byrne
- Lucinda Kyle
- Michael Field
- Sampi Mokoakoe
- Alanna Watt

And as an outsider, just because riding bucking broncs at 53 is bloody fantastic, Frank Winters.

Am I right? Am I missing crucial skills from my list? Do you know a winner who wouldn’t score highly on buggerability? Who’s on your shortlist?

Tomorrow: what a Derbyist needs to enjoy the race...