The Derby: Telecaster trainer Hughie Morrison - the late starter aiming for Epsom glory

Racehorse trainer Hughie Morrison (right) congratulates Oisin Murphy after Telecaster had won the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York in May
Trainer Hughie Morrison (left) congratulates Oisin Murphy after Telecaster won the Dante Stakes at York
Investec Derby
Venue: Epsom Date: Saturday 1 June Time: 16:30 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and online

When Hughie Morrison, aged "about 13", confided his ambition to be a racehorse trainer to the late Sir Henry Cecil, the great man offered advice.

As he prepares leading Derby hope Telecaster, Morrison recalled: "The meeting with Henry was at Goodwood, and I was with my mother, and I think she probably did the talking.

"But his advice was to go and do something different first - to learn about life."

Morrison, whose father Lord James Margadale bred and owned 1970s Epsom Oaks winners Juliette Marny and Scintillate, certainly took Cecil's words to heart.

After leaving school at Eton, where he had been 'captain' of a boarding house in which Boris Johnson spent his first year, he embarked on working life well away from horseracing.

A three-year Business Studies degree at Ealing College of Higher Education in west London included placements in firms involved in everything from fire safety equipment to fashion to healthcare and eventually led to investment in a lighting company in Manchester.

Coming from a family dotted with mainly conservative MPs, he also "sniffed at" politics before deciding such a career path was not for him.

So, after all that, Morrison was 37 when finally setting up as a trainer in 1997 with just eight horses owned by himself and family and friends in the village of East Ilsley, perched on the edge of the Berkshire Downs.

Getting established proved a relatively rapid process with success over jumps at the Cheltenham Festival, then at flat racing's Group One level, and regularly he saddled runners in high-profile prizes including the Derby and the Oaks.

However, in 2017, the prospect of fulfilling the dream of actually winning the Derby was dealt a major blow when one of his by now 80-horse string, Our Little Sister, tested positive for an outlawed anabolic steroid when finishing last in a small race at Wolverhampton.

With 'strict liability' rules applying for trainers, Morrison, who insisted the horse must have been maliciously "got at" by a doper, could have faced a 10-year ban from the sport, but a disciplinary panel accepted his protests of innocence and handed down the minimum £1,000 fine.

"It was a very traumatic time, especially having spent all my life being straight and honest, and knowing it had nothing to do with me," Morrison told BBC Sport.

"That's behind us now, but I suppose after everything it does give a bit of a story-book aspect to us having a chance in the Derby."

It is not just the trainer who has experienced a sometimes eventful path to the 240th Derby. On a less dramatic scale, the same applies to Telecaster.

The colt, bred at Meon Valley Stud in Hampshire and possessor of, it can be said, an 'Epsom pedigree' - being a son of the 2008 Derby winner New Approach and 2012 Oaks runner-up Shirocco Star - did not make his reserve when offered for sale in Newmarket at a year old.

Under the ownership of Castle Down Racing, headed up by the stud's managing partner Mark Weinfeld, he went into training with Morrison, although it was 18 months before he was considered ready to race.

As a result an initial Derby entry was cancelled.

Ironically, within a few weeks of that cancellation, Telecaster made a striking debut at Doncaster - when second behind fellow Derby hope Bangkok - before going on to win at Windsor and then, ridden by jockey Oisin Murphy, the historically significant Dante Stakes at York.

So it meant a late-entry fee - £85,000 - had to be stumped up.

"He started picking things up pretty quickly," said Morrison. "He's an intelligent horse - if he was thick he wouldn't be here now.

"Since the Dante, there have been no negatives, and we thought really that we couldn't not run (at Epsom); both Mark and I are racing purists and therefore the Derby is the 'Holy Grail'.

"I'm not worried about the course because both parents enjoyed it, and the [mile-and-a-half] distance.

"Every minute of the day there's a niggle in the back of my mind about something - like the only sixteen-day gap from the Dante - and it might be a disaster, but least we've had a go."

Morrison - like Andrew Balding, trainer of Bangkok - is a supporter of Southampton FC and, after assessing the strength of Ireland's Aidan O'Brien, says he feels "like a 5-a-side Southampton against Manchester City's full XI".

Certainly there is a David-versus-Goliath feel to the 13-horse field with O'Brien, who is seeking a record-equalling seventh success, responsible for seven - all owned and/or bred by the Coolmore racing empire.

The challenge is headed by Chester Vase winner Sir Dragonet, which also had to be supplemented as a late entry, the mount of jockey Ryan Moore.

But also on the plane from County Tipperary are Broome, winner of the Derrinstown Trial, Leopardstown, with trainer's son Donnacha riding; Anthony Van Dyck (Lingfield Trial) the mount of Seamie Heffernan, while Frankie Dettori takes part in his 24th Derby on board O'Brien's Circus Maximus, winner of the Dee Stakes at Chester.

Whatever the result, however, it will be a triumph for Coolmore - its 'super-stallion' Galileo is closely related to every single runner.