Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, is understood to be the frontrunner to take over from Vodafone as the sponsor of the Epsom Derby. Sources say that the company, which also sponsors Arsenal Football Club and has just signed up as the official airline of the Rugby World Cup, is in advanced talks with Epsom Downs Racecourse about replacing the telecoms giant, which has sponsored the race for 12 years.
“The chance to sponsor the Derby is just too good an opportunity for them not to consider it seriously,” says a source close to the airline. “The deal they are discussing would be for at least three years and would be a good fit with the company’s history and heritage.”
Emirates has a long history of supporting horse racing and has a number of partnerships in North American, Australia and the Middle East. The airline already has sponsorship deals with the Dubai World Cup, the Melbourne Cup, the Breeders Cup in the US, and races at York and Newmarket. In recent years, Emirates has turned its attention to sport in the UK. The company signed a £100m deal with Arsenal in 2004 that gives it stadium naming rights for 15 years and shirt sponsorship for eight years.
Vodafone announced in January that it would not be renewing its contract after the 2007 Derby.