After 12 months of preparation for riders and Derby HQ alike the 2015 Derby has launched. For the first time in recent years the start went smoothly and the full field crossed the line. The only cloud on the clearest of horizons was for Jensie Engisch (JE), who's horse disagreed with her bulky saddlebags.
The horse - previously picked by Derby chief Katy as the best of the start line - was reluctant to start with Jensie and her fancy baggage. JE was offered both a new horse and the opportunity to repack. She refused both and despite being one of the last to cross the line, caught up with the pack in about 500 metres, justifying Katy's faith in the horse.
Devan Horn (DH) picked up the 2015 Derby at the same blistering pace her 2013 campaign ended, occupying the front of the field with Uma Mencia (UM) and Catriona Paterson (CP) . She was first through the veterinary check at Urtuu 3 and despite a big fall on the previous leg she decided to kick on.
Choosing to camp between stations is not a decision to be taken lightly. The advantages are, it buys extra valuable evening riding and guarantees an early start. The disadvantages are your horse is seldom where you left it and the steppe generally makes for uncomfortable sleeping.
The apparently painful fall Devan suffered might also means she spends a cold and uncomfortable half hour in the morning chasing down her horse. The danger here that she could quickly negate her lead and leave herself exhausted before the day has begun.
One thing that could work in Devan's favour is that she has the support of the local herders, a good number of which were there to see her ride into Urtuu 3. If she manages the additional pressure from her new fans they could win her valuable moral support.
The only other riders to push on from Urtuu 3 were Australians, Cassie Ekert (CE) and Louise Crosbie (LC) who chose against the hospitality of the horse station in favour of half an hours extra riding. Conversely both Uma & Catriona stayed getting first choice of beds in U3.
Elsewhere in the field Sophie Wilford (SWL) became separated from fellow 2014 crew member and riding partner, Sian Dyson (SD) after a nasty fall on the second leg. Unperturbed she requested the fastest horse at Urtuu 2 and is close to catching up with her team-mate.
Today was mostly a penalty free day with just Bruce Chernoff (BCH) penalised for a slightly raised heart rate coming into U2.
Sadly we had our first retirement too. Jenna Carr, who was unwell at the start line and succumbed to the flu before HS2. A terrible way for your race to end, falling victim to neither bad riding nor the elements before the first day is done.
Katy will be reporting through the race: @MongolDerbyLive
The Full List of Riders can be found over on the Mongol Derby website.
Applications for 2016 are open. If you prefer to participate than spectate you can apply here.