Tag Archive for: Derby

Sissoko scores stylish Curragh success

Donnacha O’Brien could have a Classic prospect on his hands in the shape of Curragh winner Sissoko.

The Australia colt was a six-length winner of the Friarstown Stud Irish EBF Maiden after starting at 5-1 under Gavin Ryan, showing a good turn of foot to easy pull away from 3-1 favourite Sun King and leave the rest of the field a further five and a half lengths behind.

A debut run at the same track in September saw him finish sixth of 15 runners, but this time he seemed to have overcome that initial greenness and was professional in victory at the second time of asking.

“We always thought a lot of him,” the trainer said.

“He was actually one of my best early ones, but he just pulled a muscle and I had to leave him off until a few weeks ago.

“He ran well first time, he was very green, and he was impressive today. Hopefully he’s as good as we think he is.”

The winner holds an entry for the Group One Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster on Saturday week, although O’Brien feels he is likely to end his season and hold out for Derby trials next year.

“There is the Eyrefield next week and he’s still in the Vertem Futurity Trophy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was him finished and we bring him back for a Derby trial early next year,” he said.

“You’d be hoping he’s a Derby-type of horse with Australia putting in good stamina. But whether he’s up to that or not we’ll see.”

Jessica Harrington also had a maiden winner on the same card as Dark Vega triumphed in the Bill Hanlon Memorial Irish EBF Maiden at 22-1.

The Lope De Vega filly was steered to a neck success over Boundless Ocean by Nathan Crosse on her racecourse debut. Her better-fancied stablemate Paris Lights was third.

“She’s a lovely filly, very relaxed, very calm and did it well,” Harrington said of Dark Vega. “That’ll probably be her for the year now.

“I’d say that was probably a very good maiden. I’m delighted with her and it’s lovely to get a winner for Maurice (Regan, owner and breeder).

Dark Vega could be a filly with a future
Dark Vega could be a filly with a future (PA)

“She’s going to be a mile filly the way she finished that out. We’ll look for something early on with an ease in the ground.

“She might end up a Guineas filly, you don’t know, it’s a long time between now and then.”

She added: “I’d say the other fella (Paris Lights) needs a mile plus now and he’s going to be a mile-and-a-half horse next year.

“Shane (Foley) said he’s still looking around him. He’ll be all right.”

Harrington and Regan then enjoyed a Curragh double as the Foley-ridden Anner Castle was victorious at 5-1 in the Hollywoodbets Now Streaming All Irish Racing Maiden.

“It’s lovely to get a win out of him and it’s great for Newtown Anner (Regan’s stud) to have a double on the day,” Harrington said.

“He deserves that, he’s a great big baby and is better since he got castrated – he’s behaving much better.

“He might go for a handicap, he needs a mile and a half upwards and nice easy ground. We just didn’t get soft enough ground for him during the summer.

“He was going to go to the sales, but they might keep him now.”

Doncaster on agenda for Luxembourg

New Derby favourite Luxembourg is in contention for a Group One assignment in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained son of Camelot created a huge impression in the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh on Saturday, cruising to victory under Seamie Heffernan as he came from last to first to take his record to two from two.

A trip to Town Moor on October 23 now awaits, should all go well – a race his sire won in 2011 en route to landing the following year’s 2000 Guineas and Derby.

O’Brien said: “He’s a lovely horse and was showing loads before he went to Killarney (on debut). He came forward every week after that, and it was a lovely second stage for him.

“The plan was to come here and then he might go for the Futurity if he stays well. Sometimes this time of the year horses can go off, because he is a big horse.

“He has plenty of class and is not short of pace. He goes through his work very well.”

Luxembourg had been co-favourite for Epsom immediately after the Beresford, but by Sunday was the clear 8-1 market leader.

Tenebrism powered up the rail to victory in the Cheveley Park
Tenebrism powered up the rail to victory in the Cheveley Park (Tim Goode/PA)

O’Brien had not been at the Curragh to watch Luxembourg, because just moments earlier Tenebrism was winning the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes in spectacular fashion for him at Newmarket – carrying the same colours of Westerberg.

The Ballydoyle trainer said: “She looked incredibly special in Naas (on her only previous run in March) when she took off in the last furlong, and was just ready to go racing yesterday.

“She’s obviously a good filly. You would like to run her over seven (furlongs) to see what would happen for next year, but it looked like the way she went to the line (at Newmarket) that she could get seven well.”

Mr McCann puts Reds on course for 2022 Derby day

Mr McCann earned his famous footballing connections a potential day at the 2022 Derby with victory in the Cazoo Derby “Wild Card” EBF Conditions Stakes at Epsom.

Trained by Tom Dascombe, the Kodiac colt has run a string of fine races in good company this season, not least when beaten less than three lengths by Native Trail in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket’s July Meeting.

Having started his campaign at five furlongs and never before gone beyond seven, this represented a different test altogether for a horse named after Liverpool’s press officer, Matt McCann, and owned by a group of current and former Liverpool players which includes James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Adam Lallana and England star Jordan Henderson.

His cause was helped when odds-on favourite Goldspur, who had been so impressive on his debut at Sandown, became upset in the stalls and was withdrawn. But Richard Kingscote rode a masterful race from the front on the 4-1 chance and pulled nicely clear of Austrian Theory to win by five and a half lengths, seeing out the extended mile with aplomb.

The success gives Mr McCann and his owners automatic entry to the premier Classic, although does not guarantee a run. He was given a 66-1 quote by Paddy Power.

The winning jockey told Racing TV: “He knows the drill and is very professional. Tom was confident the mile would help him, so we jumped out, got in a rhythm – and away we went.

“I thought early on maybe he was just moving a bit too well for the slower ground, but to be fair he handled the track very well and he skipped away up the straight.

“He’s progressed well – he’s danced a few dances and has had a solid year. Tom has done a great job, and it’s nice for him to pick this up – I think the extra trip is opening more doors for him. He’s a likeable horse.”

After winning with his only ride of the day, Kingscote could switch his attention to battling fuel queues before riding at Newcastle on Monday.

He added: “I’m having a reasonably quiet week this week – I’m going up to Newcastle on Monday. Hopefully I can get some diesel and get a few winners on the board!”

Appleby plots big-race targets for his Derby heroes

Adayar and Hurricane Lane were both reported to be in top form as Charlie Appleby looks to future plans for his Derby-winning colts.

Adayar struck gold at Epsom, while his stablemate claimed the Irish equivalent – and could have the final Classic of the year at Doncaster as his next engagement.

For Adayar, it will be the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot next.

Appleby said: “Touch wood, all is well – they’re (both) in great form.

Charlie Appleby with the Derby trophy at Epsom
Charlie Appleby with the Derby trophy at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

“Adayar worked on Saturday and is building up towards the King George. He’s done very well for his break – he put a nice bit of condition on, so it’s time to start taking a bit back off again! I couldn’t be any happier with him.

“Hurricane Lane has come out of the Irish Derby very well. It looked a tough, hard race – and I thought he’d sleep for a few days afterwards, but he’s come out of the race bouncing.

“We’ll potentially go straight to the St Leger with him.”

Reflecting further, the Godolphin trainer said: “It’s been a great year.

Hurricane Lane edged Lone Eagle in a thrilling Irish Derby
Hurricane Lane edged Lone Eagle in a thrilling Irish Derby (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

“We were always confident with the three-year-olds. We didn’t have a Group One-winning two-year-old last year, but we always felt with the pedigrees that they’d come into their own as three-year-olds – and they’ve not let us down.

“To have two Derby winners with two different horses is very unusual for our stable. It’s great for the team, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin.

“Like in any sport, when you have good players around you, it makes the yard tick away nicely.”

Varian retains faith in Third Realm

Roger Varian is confident Third Realm still has a “big future” ahead of him after finishing fifth in the Cazoo Derby.

The Sea The Stars colt beat Charlie Appleby’s Epsom hero Adayar when claiming top honours in the Lingfield Derby Trial last month.

That form was turned on its head on the day that mattered most, but Third Realm was not disgraced in finishing fifth – and his trainer believes there is plenty to look forward to.

“I think if everything had gone smoothly for Third Realm at Epsom, the closest he would have been is third or fourth. The winner won very well and looked a class above,” said Varian.

“I thought Third Realm ran with great credit. For a horse we thought would go round Epsom like a motorbike, he didn’t really handle things – he got a bump in the first furlong and just looked a little bit out of his comfort zone.

“He was a bit keen over the top of the hill and got a bit unbalanced round Tattenham Corner. For most of the way you couldn’t see him finishing in the frame, but he stayed on very well inside the final furlong and a half and nearly got fourth.

“I thought it was the run of a horse with a big future, but at no stage of the race watching did he look quite comfortable to me.”

Third Realm retains an entry in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday week.

Asked whether that Group Two contest is a possible target, the trainer added: “I would have thought that would be too soon, but we’ll see how he is this week – we don’t have to decide now.”

Save a Forest performed best of the trainer's runners in the Oaks
Save a Forest performed best of the trainer’s runners in the Oaks (John Walton/PA)

Varian saddled three runners in the Cazoo Oaks last Friday, with outsider Save A Forest faring best of them in fourth.

“It was no surprise to us that Save A Forest ran well. She’s improved with every start and she would have been suited by conditions,” said the Newmarket handler.

“I think she was a shade unlucky not to be closer. With all the field going over to the far rail, and her being on the rail but towards the rear, it meant up the straight she didn’t have a clear run. She ran great.”

Zeyaadah and Teona both ran below expectations, with Varian of the opinion both floundered in the rain-softened ground.

He added: “Zeyaadah ran like a non-stayer on that ground. She moved into it nicely in the straight and didn’t get home. I think it’s a misconception that she wants soft ground – I think she wants much better ground.

“Teona definitely wants better ground. Her mother Ambivalent liked it fast, and I should think she will be most comfortable on a faster surface.

“We’ll give her a bit of time – she’s a big filly. I’ve not lost faith in her. I’ve always touted her to be a nice filly and I’m sure she will be, but we won’t rush her back to the track.

“We’ll take a view on her in a couple of weeks’ time and see how she’s come out of the race.”

Appleby eyes King George for Adayar

The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot is the likely next target for Cazoo Derby hero Adayar.

Runner-up in the Lingfield Derby Trial, the Frankel colt went one better at Epsom on Saturday under Adam Kirby – providing trainer Charlie Appleby with his second victory in the premier Classic, following the success of Masar in 2018.

The Moulton Paddocks handler reports Adayar to have taken his exertions well and is hoping he can become the first horse since Galileo in 2001 to complete the Derby-King George double on July 24.

“He has come out of the race great,” said Appleby.

“He went on the sea walker yesterday morning and he has been out for a jog this morning and has been turned out in the paddock, and he has shown his wellness. All signs are good so far.

“Without rubber stamping anything, the discussions taking place at the moment are that we will give this horse a bit more time and look towards going to a King George with him.

“I think timing-wise it suits him, and also we will have tested our mettle a bit against the older horses.

“After that we can see what he is like against the older horses, and if he happens to win a King George we can work back from an Arc. If he gets beat in a King George then we revert back to our original plan – which was going down the St Leger route.

“I think, personally, looking from the outside having won neither race, I would rather pinpoint one – because we all know in the autumn it is a big ask to do a St Leger and then an Arc.”

Appleby has also begun making plans for Hurricane Lane and One Ruler, who finished third and sixth respectively behind Adayar at Epsom.

Hurricane Lane (left) winning the Dante Stakes at York
Hurricane Lane (left) winning the Dante Stakes at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Hurricane Lane is bound for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on June 26, while One Ruler could drop back in trip for the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot next week.

Appleby added: “I was delighted with Hurricane Lane. He was the horse I thought in the paddock looked magnificent – and I thought he took the preliminaries very well.

“What did surprise me, but we took it as a positive, is that he was very much learning on the job there. He showed his inexperience. Going into the Derby, I thought he was one run short of what I would have liked.

“I’m delighted with how he has come out of it, and the plan is to head straight to Ireland.

“We will drop One Ruler back to 10 furlongs. James (Doyle) said he didn’t handle the track particularly well, but he didn’t see it out either. We might look at something like the Hampton Court – we will see what his wellbeing is like.

“He would carry a penalty in that from his Autumn Stakes success, but we could look at something like that – or wait for an Eclipse.”

Monday Musings: Epsom Wonders

Friday morning 6 a.m. and I was keeping one of an increasing number of early-morning assignments with my good friend Steve Gilbey, long-term right-hand man of Raymond Tooth, writes Tony Stafford. He habitually – for Steve is very much a man of routine – starts his morning at crack of dawn at the North Audley Street, Mayfair, Grosvenor’s Café just along the road from Selfridge’s.

His first unofficial action is to help the early-morning setting out on the generous pavement of nine round tables and 36 chairs, using his boxing and security-man strength to speed up the operation.

But as we approached on Friday, there was a difference. A nicely-tanned, fit-looking gentleman came towards us, beaming at Steve, interrupting his own initialising that first task of the day at the café.

“How are you, my friend?” he asked. Steve had often mentioned the owner over the years but only on our previous visit the week before to my enquiry, said: “No, it’s been ages since I’ve seen him; he’s been stuck in South Africa because of Covid”.

So here we were on the morning of the Oaks and I was being introduced to the café owner, Mr Bernard Kantor. It wasn’t exactly a year before, more like eleven months, that Mr Kantor was standing alongside The Queen on the presentation dais for the Investec Derby as she gave the trophy to the Coolmore partners of shock winner Serpentine.

Co-founder and long-term managing director of the bank which had for ten years sponsored the entire Derby meeting, he had since retired upon reaching the age of 70 – you would guess ten years less when you see him.

So here was a highly-successful man actually enjoying the physical release of helping his bijou business – “I love it, it is so old school”, he says – start its day.

We had a pleasant chat, as racing people usually do, with the news that he had already been speaking to his trainer William Haggas and expected a call from him before we left after our toast and in my case some very tasty bacon in between.

As we went out, he thrust a napkin with an email address and imparted the news that Sans Pretention was fancied for the 3.00 race at Catterick that afternoon. When I got a chance to look up the race I discovered not only was the Haggas-trained three-year-old a daughter of Galileo but that she was owned and bred by a certain Bernard Kantor.

Naturally she won and this went along as just another of the ridiculously-fortuitous encounters I have experienced in my long life – even longer than the man who sponsored the Derby and who in 2018 dreamt on the morning of the race he might be winning it himself.

Haggas-trained Young Rascal, a son of Intello, had just come out on top in the Chester Vase, beating Mark Johnston’s Dee Ex Bee, but at Epsom while Dee Ex Bee filled the same position behind Masar, Young Rascal was back in seventh.

He won two more Group 3 races, both at Newbury, and a Kempton Listed to make his career tally five wins from ten starts and then he was passed on to Australian interests to continue his career.  There is clearly a strong bond between owner and trainer and Kantor describes Lester Piggott’s son-in-law as “the perfect gentleman, someone who brings great credit to his profession and to racing”.

Obviously, there was little time to sample the benefit of the experiences of a man whose husbandry of his company even though he had basically lived in London for almost a quarter of a century, maintained its South African roots, always with the theme of inclusiveness of the entire population of his homeland.

But he did offer one nice moment. One year as they were erecting the presentation platform for the Derby, one of his staff showed him the three steps he had sourced up which the monarch would climb to reach the presentation area.

“I said, “can you get two taller steps?” and he asked me why. “Wait and see”, I told him. “So when the Queen came to the top step of two I had to bend down to reach her hand to help her up. As I did, right behind me a massive banner depicting “Investec” came into view. I thought he knew why then”, said Bernard.

By the way, I can’t wait to go back and try to get in between the two powerful senior citizens at least to take a couple of chairs out and next Tuesday is already in my diary.  As I said, the bacon is delicious and so too are the lunches according to Steve. Grosvenor’s is open until five p.m. so if you want to sit in the sunshine just up the road from Selfridge’s, and sample “the life” I can heartily recommend it.


Ten hours after we left the café, a filly won the Cazoo Oaks by six lengths more than Shergar had won the Derby; four more than St Jovite’s margin in his Irish Derby and only second in terms of a Classic-winning distance in an attributed leading racing nation to Secretariat’s 31-length romp in the Belmont Stakes.

Big Red, though, was unbackable and faced only four vastly-inferior non-staying opponents already worn out by taking him on in the Derby and Preakness. Snowfall wasn’t even her stable’s first choice, that distinction going to beaten 1,000 Guineas favourite, Santa Barbara.

Two starts before the Oaks, Snowfall had finished eighth at 50-1, beating only two home in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket although if you have another look at the race you will hear the commentator calling her a close third in her pink cap.

But that was the day the caps between her and better-fancied stable-companion Mother Earth were inadvertently switched, so the white cap, intended for Mother Earth ended on Snowfall who was just hunted up once victory was out of the question.

The Aidan O’Brien team were given a disciplinary sanction for the mix-up but events for the two fillies in 2021 have been ample compensation. Mother Earth, ridden by Frankie Dettori as Ryan Moore partnered the much-lauded favourite Santa Barbara, won the 1,000 Guineas and on Friday, Snowfall, also with Dettori as Moore was again more-or-less obliged to stay with the now Oaks favourite but Santa Barbara never held up much hope as Dettori landed on his feet on an O’Brien Group 1 winner.

There was a race in between the 50-1 no-show and the best Oaks winner of all the years I’ve been watching racing and probably any in the previous two centuries. That was the Musidora when Moore made all the running on the 14-1 shot and just when it looked as though the better-fancied challengers would be coming to get her at the end of the ten and a bit furlongs she opened out again. Most observers on the day thought she might struggle to repeat it at Epsom.

I mentioned last week that O’Brien horses could suddenly make massive strides from two to three. Already up from an official 90 after the Fillies’ Mile, she was raised to 108 after York and with the look from that race and in her pedigree that stamina would not be a problem, she had to come into the Oaks argument.

But this was not an argument. Projecting the late York surge away from the trio that were chasing her at York another almost two furlongs on a more testing track and on rain-drenched ground clearly produced extra dimensions of superiority.

In the last furlong and a half, perfectly in tune with his filly, once Dettori grabbed the stands rails with a little tickle to the long-term leader Mystery Angel, the margin stretched exponentially. As with Secretariat who, once his far-inferior rivals were stone cold, put in an exhibition for the Belmont Park crowd, so did Snowfall in leafy Surrey.

If the Epsom finish line had been another furlong on, 30 lengths would have been a realistic margin. How Snowfall can lose the Arc off bottom weight with all the allowances against her elders and male opponents is hard to imagine. I wonder how daring Dominic Gardner-Hill will be in rating her after this?

We all expected, especially once Aidan removed his other five acceptors from the path of favourite Bolshoi Ballet, his own ninth Derby to go with the same record number of Oaks (Oakses? Ed.) looked almost a case of going down and coming back.

But while that can happen occasionally in a Derby, there are always potential pitfalls. Afterwards everyone was musing on why the favourite had so clearly under-performed. It was only as the generous praise for hard-working Adam Kirby, winner on Charlie Appleby’s well-deserved second score in the race with strong staying Adayar, that Aidan O’Brien was tweeting a ghastly-looking wound on the favourite’s off-hind leg where he had been struck into in the early scrimmaging.

Hopefully he can be brought back to full health to challenge Adayar later in the season, though maybe their future diverging distance requirements might make that unlikely.

Not 24 hours later, with last year’s Dewhurst winner St Mark’s Basilica annexing the Prix Du Jockey Club yesterday in such emphatic fashion to add to his earlier French 2000 Guineas success, Coolmore and O’Brien instantly re-established themselves at the top of the three-year-old colts’ division, too. It all makes for an exciting year.

Adam Kirby is such a nice bloke. One day coming back from a race meeting up north, one of my tyres blew but luckily it was close to the services on the A14. I limped into the garage and luckily noticed Big Paulie, formerly Adam’s driver, who had just stopped to re-fuel.

Paulie looked into the car, spoke to a bare-chested and clearly sleepy passenger who hastily pulled on some clothes and came out to look with Paulie at the damage. Within minutes they had changed the tyre with minimal help from the driver and we were all on our way. As I reiterate, very nice bloke is Mr Kirby!

Godolphin’s second win in four years started an astonishing day, rounded off by Essential Quality, who made the Belmont Stakes – the third leg of the US Triple Crown – his sixth win in seven career starts.

Before yesterday, Essential Quality, a son of Tapit and, like Adayar a home-bred Godolphin colt, suffered that sole defeat when fourth to the controversial Medina Spirit, absent from the field last night and with his trainer Bob Baffert now under a two-year ban from having runners at Churchill Downs.

Even if Medina Spirit is disqualified, as seems inevitable after two positive drug tests, the latter in a laboratory Baffert chose to carry out the test, there is no prospect of Essential Quality being the beneficiary beyond being promoted to third. Had he won the Derby, I’m sure trainer Brad Cox would have run him back in the Preakness.

In any case it was a memorable weekend for Godolphin, but even if they win ten more Derbys and three US Triple Crowns, it will never wash away for me the memory of a horse and jockey in perfect synchronicity slicing up the last furlong in the biggest show of superiority I have ever witnessed in a championship Flat race.

Sheer Derby delight for Kirby as everything comes right in the end

Adam Kirby was struggling to take it all in after ending a rollercoaster week on a high by claiming Cazoo Derby glory aboard Adayar.

The multiple Group One-winning rider is not one of the more fashionable members of the weighing room, perhaps because he made his name riding on the all-weather or perhaps because he has endured a career-long battle with his weight.

Imagine then being handed what may be the opportunity of a lifetime by being booked to partner the Ed Dunlop-trained John Leeper in the world’s most famous Flat race – only to lose the ride at the eleventh hour after Frankie Dettori became available.

“You wouldn’t have wanted to have been around me for the first hour,” Kirby admitted.

However, that was not the end of the story for the 32-year-old, with his friend and ally Charlie Appleby stepping in to give him the mount on his apparent third-string Adayar, replacing previously booked champion jockey Oisin Murphy.

The rest, as they say, is history, with the Lingfield Derby Trial runner-up and 16-1 shot – who was not short of support in the market beforehand – finding a gap on the far rail before scooting four and a half lengths clear.

Recalling the events of recent days, Kirby – no stranger to Group One success through his association with Clive Cox – said: “I was asked to ride John Leeper and then five minutes later Charlie rang me to asked me to ride this lad. I said ‘I’m sorry, I’ve just put my name to John Leeper’.

“Mr Dunlop said ‘if you’re going to ride him put your name to him’, and as a man of my word I did

“It’s worked out great that I lost the ride on him!”

Adayar storms home under Adam Kirby
Adayar storms home under Adam Kirby (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He added: “I spoke to Charlie very quickly and I can’t thank him enough – his loyalty is unbelievable.

“When you’re just a run-of-the-mill jockey, being able to ride class horses and get a chance on the big day to deliver, it’s a marvellous feeling.

“Charlie had a champion jockey booked (to ride Adayar), but was kind enough to let me ride him. All credit it to him – he’s a great trainer, a great man and a great father. I will never be able to thank him enough.

“It’s quite unbelievable, really. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. It’s mad, crazy – what goes around comes around.”

Trainer Charlie Appleby celebrates at Epsom
Trainer Charlie Appleby celebrates at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

Appleby, who saddled the first Derby winner to carry the Godolphin blue in 2018 hero Masar, was keen for most of the praise for his latest success to go to the winning rider.

He said: “Adam is a natural horseman. You can put him on every type of horse. When I was first given the licence, Adam rode winners for us very early on.

“I think if you win an English Derby, you don’t have to call yourself an all-weather jockey, that’s for sure! Adam is far from an all-weather jockey.

“I’m just delighted he’s part of the team and I’m delighted he’s had a winner.”

Kirby hopes his Derby success is proof, if it were needed, that he is just as capable of delivering the goods on a Saturday at Epsom as he is on a Wednesday at Lingfield.

He added: “I’m really pleased. I’m not really one to get over-excited about things, but I was then (passing the post).

“I hope the kids are watching and at least they know when people call daddy an all-weather jockey, I’m not.

“I’m good on the all-weather because I ride on the all-weather and I ride horses with a chance on the all-weather.

“You can’t win these big races unless you’re in them for starters. It’s great to pick up a ride and then go and win it.

“There was just enough room up the rail, and I thought if I could just get in I could help them make their minds up, so I got in – luckily the horse was brave enough to go through with it and galloped up to the line and out through it.

“It’s a marvellous day. I hope my mother was watching!”

And on the 40th anniversary of the great Shergar’s Derby win, the popular Kirby was also quick to remember the late Walter Swinburn, who was in the saddle that day and went on become a successful trainer before his untimely death at the age of 55.

He said: “He was a top man and a very sad loss. He taught me great things as well and taught me always to be very cool and calm and relaxed about things.

“He was great to ride for and a fantastic man. He had a lovely family and I am sure they will be pleased for me, too.”

Derby delight for bookies as Adayar scoops Epsom honours

Bookmakers were struggling to contain their delight after Adayar stormed to Cazoo Derby success at Epsom.

Aidan O’Brien’s Bolshoi Ballet was sent off the red-hot 11-8 favourite and although seemingly in the ideal position approaching the business end of the mile-and-a-half showpiece, he could only manage a well-beaten seventh under Ryan Moore.

Others fancied contenders that failed to make an impact were Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney and John Leeper, the mount of Frankie Dettori.

Adding further joy for the layers was 50-1 chance Mojo Star finishing second to the 16-1 winner.

Bookmakers shared Adam Kirby's delight at the Derby result
Bookmakers shared Adam Kirby’s delight at the Derby result (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Coral’s David Stevens said: “The Derby is always the biggest betting race of the Flat season, and going into this year’s renewal, two horses emerged as the most popular with punters, favourite Bolshoi Ballet and Frankie Dettori’s mount, John Leeper.

“But neither could land a blow once the stalls opened, and although Adayar attracted some late support, his victory was still very much in our favour.”

For Ladbrokes, Nicola McGeady said: “Adam Kirby is the toast of Ladbrokes this afternoon after landing the Derby on Adayar. Every horse in this year’s renewal attracted support at some stage, but Adayar was the best result in the book.”

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield added: “The winner didn’t go unsupported each-way at fancy prices, but despite that and Mac Swiney finishing fourth not being ideal with our extra place, it was still a good result for us.”

Looking to the future, Coral make Adayar the 4-1 favourite for the St Leger, while Ladbrokes quote the son of Frankel at 8-1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Kirby stars as Adayar powers to Derby glory

Adayar sprang a 16-1 surprise as he came home a wide-margin winner of the Cazoo Derby under a jubilant Adam Kirby at Epsom.

Trained by Charlie Appleby and only ridden by Kirby after he lost the ride on John Leeper to Frankie Dettori, the Godolphin-owned son of Frankel shot clear in the final furlong to give his handler a second win after Masar in 2018.

Richard Hannon’s Mojo Star, a 50-1 chance, ran a huge race to be four and a half lengths away in second, with the winner’s stablemate Hurricane Lane another three and a quarter lengths back in third.

Gear Up set the early gallop, with Kirby on his heels aboard Adayar and Youth Spirit also prominent in the early stages.

Hot favourite Bolshoi Ballet was also towards the head of the field, settled in fourth on the outside, while the well-fancied John Leeper was restrained in last place by Dettori until the field reached Tattenham Corner.

Gear Up started to drop away with two furlongs to run, allowing Kirby a run up the inside rail and he soon put daylight between himself and the field.

Mojo Star finished well from off the pace, with Hurricane Lane also keeping on at the one pace for minor honours, but Aidan O’Brien’s Bolshoi Ballet and the Ed Dunlop-trained John Leeper were both ultimately well-beaten.

Kirby was struggling to comprehend his achievement following the race.

He said: “There’s been ups and downs, it’s racing, but when it comes to Charlie Appleby, he’s a top man. I can’t thank him enough. He’s a real gentleman and a great trainer. It’s quite unbelievable really – I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.

“It’s a Derby. He ran well in the Lingfield Derby Trial and that was obviously good form – we can all be wiser after the event.

“I got in (on the rail) and luckily the horse was brave enough to go through with it – he galloped up to the line and out through it.

“It’s a marvellous day. I hope my mother was watching.”

Appleby admitted he had his doubts about Adayar tackling the Derby, but Godolphin founder Sheikh Mohammed was keen to let the colt have his Classic chance.

Trainer Charlie Appleby celebrates with the trophy at Epsom
Trainer Charlie Appleby celebrates with the trophy at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

The trainer said: “I’m delighted for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and Team Godolphin, being a home-bred as well and Frankel having his first Derby winner.

“I’m delighted for Adam. He knows him as well as anyone as he broke all three of the runners in.

“To win the way he has done, he’s stamped his authority there among the three-year-old middle-distance horses. We’ll just take a breath, let the dust settle and regroup. It will be interesting to see what the boys say about the other pair (Hurricane Run and One Ruler, who was sixth) as well.

“I had a conversation with His Highness on Wednesday and I sort of put it up there that Adayar would be more of a staying horse and, thankfully, he put me straight back where I should be and said ‘no Charlie, there’s only one Derby and you need to stay in the Derby’.”

Adam Kirby celebrates at Epsom
Adam Kirby celebrates at Epsom (Mike Egerton/Jockey Club)

Oisin Murphy had been asked to partner Adayar, but given Appleby’s long-standing relationship with Kirby, he changed the riding plans.

Appleby said: “Adam is a huge part of the team, he’s been with us since I started and does a lot on the racing side, breaks some of our horses in. I have to say Oisin was very professional when he took the news.

“Once Adam was available, I was always going to offer the ride to him, and Oisin said ‘I know what you’re going to say and I understand’, so a big thanks to him for being a true sportsman.”

Appleby admitted he felt Adayar might be more suited to a stamina test.

He said: “They all looked great and were training well and I couldn’t give a negative to any of them coming in, but I felt one horse was going to be a more of a Leger horse and that was him – I’m not saying we won’t see him there yet.

“He’s a big horse and I wouldn’t say we’re going to rush to anything yet. I think we’ll take this on and just sit back – they’re nice discussions to have of where we go next.”

Masar won the Derby three years ago for Appleby
Masar won the Derby three years ago for Appleby (Adam Davy/PA)

The trainer believes his first Derby win three years ago provided some valuable insight ahead of a second success.

He added: “When you’re in the position I’m in and have the horses I have in your care, the expectations are always there and when you have your first Derby winner it’s a surreal moment and there’s also a sort of sense of relief that you’ve ticked off one of the boxes of what you’re employed to do.

“So coming into today’s Derby, everyone was a bit more relaxed – but as I always say, unless you’ve driven a Ferrari you don’t know what one is like, and until you’ve won a Derby you don’t really know what sort of horse you need to win a Derby.

“So thankfully we’re in a position now to learn what horses are needed and we have a great team sourcing horses for us to train.”

Derby ground set to dry out after unexpected amount of rain on Friday

The ground at Epsom is expected to dry out ahead of the Cazoo Derby on Saturday, but to what extent remains to be seen.

More rain than had been expected fell on Friday – turning the ground officially good to soft, from the good, good to firm in places at the start of Oaks day.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said at the end of racing: “I’ll leave it as good to soft, but it’s going to be dry overnight and then we are due a pleasantly warm day tomorrow, with temperatures of 22 to 23 degrees.

“It will dry to some degree, and I’ll be surprised if at some point in the morning we are not mentioning ‘good in places’. Time will tell to what extent it dries after that, but I’ve known us run a Derby on officially good ground when it’s been like this at the end of the first day. I wouldn’t rule that out again.”

He added: “I think every race today was around six seconds slower than standard, so they weren’t exaggerated soft ground times and it tends to look worse than it actually is here, and invariably walks back well after each race.

Racegoers look on under umbrellas at Epsom
Racegoers look on under umbrellas at Epsom (Mike Egerton/Jockey Club)

“Overnight the last mile of rail will be taken away, as usual, so that opens up around five yards of fresh ground. Today’s racing surface will be repaired to a degree tonight and completed in the morning, when the entire Derby course will also be given a cut.”

Defending the watering that took place earlier in the week, Cooper said: “When I came in this morning at 6am and walked the course I was on the verge of calling it ‘good to firm, good in places’, and if we hadn’t watered during the week it would have been firm, undoubtedly.

“The forecast at that stage, as it had been on Thursday, was for a day that would be damp, but with rainfall in the one millimetre to four millimetre range. We ended up with nearly 11mm, but you accept that as the meteorologists are working with the information that’s available to them.

“We’ve been open about what we’ve done this week, and in putting down 5mm, 5mm and then about 2.5mm that adds up to only about half an inch. Without doing something in the week it would have been firm, with a forecast of 2mm of rain, which would have turned it into an ice rink.

“I can’t believe anybody would think that was a sensible approach.”

Meade could look to Irish Derby with Lone Eagle after colt forced to miss Epsom

Lone Eagle could head for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby after being ruled out of the English version due to a dirty scope.

The Galileo colt was found not to be 100 per cent when given a routine test after a workout on Thursday morning.

It was a bitter blow to trainer Martyn Meade and his team, as Lone Eagle looked to be in top form after easily winning the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood two weeks ago under a 5lb penalty.

“We were all ready – we gave him his last bit of prep this morning for a blow-out and as a matter of course we scoped him and unfortunately there was a bit of mucus,” said the Manton handler.

“The trouble is the horse has been in great form – he was eating everything, working so well and his coat was looking great, but you can’t get away from the fact that for that race you need to be 100 per cent, not 90 per cent.

“I was devastated. It’s very disappointing.”

Meade feels Royal Ascot, where Lone Eagle holds an entry in the King Edward VII Stakes, is likely to come too soon – but the Irish Derby at the Curragh on June 26 could be on the agenda.

“It’s going to be a rush to get to Ascot, so I don’t think we’ll be going there,” he said.

“We’ll look at the Irish Derby which might suit him a bit better. I think that’s where we might go. We could still go for a Derby, but it’s not the English one.”

Mill Reef remembered – 50 years on from Derby success

Mill Reef was described as the “most perfect specimen of a small horse” by his trainer Ian Balding – and he developed into a giant of thoroughbred racing.

Standing 15.2 as a two-year-old in 1970, Mill Reef went on not only to land the Epsom Derby the following season but won a host of other major races too, including the Coral-Eclipse, King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Such were his achievements that he is immortalised with a life-size statue at Park House Stables at Kingsclere.

The small but exquisite colt, with a mahogany coat, came to occupy a special place in the hearts of the public as he drew on his courage to win his greatest battle when, at the age of four, he suffered a life-threatening injury in a routine gallop at home.

Mill Reef and Geoff Lewis return victorious following the Derby
Mill Reef and Geoff Lewis return victorious following the Derby (PA)

The story of Mill Reef, named after a stretch of coastline in the West Indies, began in the United States, where he was bred. It soon transferred across the Atlantic as his owner, the American millionaire philanthropist Paul Mellon, adored the English racing scene.

Under the tutelage of Balding – whose son Andrew has leading claims this year through Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit – the youngster was never less than sensational right from the start, overturning 2-9 favourite Fireside Chat by four lengths on his Salisbury debut before winning the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot by eight lengths.

Although he was beaten a short head by My Swallow in the Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte, after a debilitating journey and a bad draw, the chance of redemption arrived in the Gimcrack at York – for which Mellon flew in from the States to watch him for the first time.

Alas, it rained so heavily on the Knavesmire that Balding wanted to withdraw his potential superstar – but the owner assured his trainer everything would be fine. He was right as Mill Reef carried the familiar black and gold colours to a staggering 10-length victory. “He was the best two-year-old I had ever seen,” said the trainer.

Owner Paul Mellon with Mill Reef after the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot
Owner Paul Mellon with Mill Reef after the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot (PA)

There were two more victories before that stellar campaign ended, including a four-length success in the Dewhurst at Newmarket.

The three top two-year-olds of 1970, Mill Reef, My Swallow and Brigadier Gerard clashed in the 2000 Guineas, the field for which was one of the finest ever assembled. It was won by the peerless miler Brigadier Gerard, with Mill Reef in second and My Swallow third.

Balding admitted being shocked by the defeat. But jockey Geoff Lewis was convinced the horse would be better over further, despite his pedigree suggesting otherwise.

However, Lewis faced his own race against time to be fit to ride Mill Reef in the Derby after being injured in a fall less than two hours after the 2000 Guineas.

He won his battle and was in the saddle as Mill Reef strode to a smooth three-length victory over Linden Tree at Epsom – and he also rode the winners of the Oaks and Coronation Cup at the same meeting.

When Mill Reef went gloriously into his winter quarters, racing fans were already awaiting the promised showdown of epic proportions between him and Brigadier Gerard in the Coral-Eclipse the following season, but it was not to be.

Mill Reef with Geoff Lewis, pictured at Newbury racecourse
Mill Reef with Geoff Lewis, pictured at Newbury racecourse (PA)

Mill Reef sauntered to a 10-length victory in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp, but a scrambling success when the virus was on him in the Coronation Cup at Epsom proved his swansong. While being prepared for the Arc on a sunny August morning on Watership Down, a dreadful, audible crack signalled he had broken his near foreleg.

The operation to save him took more than seven hours, after which Mill Reef’s calm temperament and indomitable spirit took over. It was not long before he was able to hobble along with his leg encased in plaster, until finally he could leave Kingsclere for his new career as a stallion where he went on to sire two Derby winners of his own – Shirley Heights (1978) and Reference Point (1987).

Mill Reef still has a race named in his honour at Newbury, where he kicked off his three-year-old campaign with a four-length success in the Greenham Stakes.

The Group Two Mill Reef Stakes over six furlongs, held every September, also had an auspicious beginning under its new name when its first winner in 1972, Mon Fils, went on to win the 2000 Guineas.

High Definition set to miss Epsom and run in Irish Derby

High Definition is set to sidestep the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on Saturday and instead run in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh on June 26.

The Galileo colt spent the winter months as ante-post favourite for the premier Classic after coming from the clouds to win the Beresford Stakes in September.

However, his preparation this spring has not been entirely straightforward, with unsatisfactory blood test results ruling him out of his intended comeback run in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

Aidan O'Brien with High Definition and jockey Seamie Heffernan
Aidan O’Brien with High Definition and jockey Seamie Heffernan (PA)

Instead, High Definition returned five days later in the Dante Stakes at York – and while he was not disgraced in finishing third on the Knavesmire, O’Brien has revealed he is set to be saved for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby later in the month.

The Ballydoyle handler still houses the hot favourite for this weekend’s feature in Bolshoi Ballet.

Speaking after saddling Point Lonsdale to win the opening race at the Curragh on Wednesday, O’Brien said: “It looks like Bolshoi Ballet will run at Epsom and High Definition will wait for the Curragh.”

He went on: “Nothing is written in stone until ten o’clock in the morning (final declarations), but it looks like the two horses are going to be split.

“It looks like Bolshoi Ballet is going to Epsom and it looks like High Definition is coming straight here (Curragh). Bolshoi would be our only runner at Epsom – that’s what the lads are thinking to give the two of them a chance at a Derby.

Bolshoi Ballet is set to be Aidan O'Brien's sole representative in the Derby
Bolshoi Ballet is set to be Aidan O’Brien’s sole representative in the Derby (Brian Lawless/PA)

“St Mark’s Basilica and Van Gogh are going to France (Prix du Jockey Club, on Sunday). Kyprios is going to Ascot for the Queen’s Vase and Sir Lamorak might go for the King Edward.

“We were lucky to get the run into High Definition at York and we think he’s a very good horse. A little more time won’t do him any harm.

“It was just to give the two of them a chance until they have to meet. The Curragh Derby is a very important race, as the Epsom Derby is also.

“I’m very happy with both horses. If we didn’t get the run into High Definition then there was no decision to make as if he didn’t run in York then he definitely wouldn’t go to Epsom.”

John Leeper is now set to be ridden by Frankie Dettori
John Leeper is now set to be ridden by Frankie Dettori (Adam Davy/PA)

Frankie Dettori has teamed up with O’Brien on a number of occasions of late, steering Mother Earth to victory in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last month.

The Italian had been due to partner an O’Brien-trained runner at Epsom, but he will now ride the Ed Dunlop-trained John Leeper in the Classic.

In Dettori’s expected absence Adam Kirby had been booked for the mount on the impeccably-bred Frankel colt, but Patrick Cooper, racing manager for owner Cristina Patino said: “As far as I know, he (Dettori) is riding, that’s what I’ve been told.”

Shergar’s imperious Derby victory remains vivid – 40 years on

Shergar’s victory in the 1981 Derby at Epsom remains one of the most iconic moments in racing folklore.

His winning margin of 10 lengths is the biggest in the history of the premier Classic, which was first run in 1780.

It was a case of Shergar first, the rest nowhere – and was a dream first Derby call for Graham Goode, in his first year as commentator for ITV.

He admits owing Shergar’s jockey Walter Swinburn, who was 19 at the time, an enormous debt of gratitude for making his colossal task much simpler.

“The tag line for me was I was always very grateful to Walter Swinburn for winning so easily,” said Goode.

“It made my life on the most prestigious, most under-the-microscope race, very easy, and I was always grateful to him – which always brought a smile to his face.

“I also remember from the race John Matthias finishing second (on Glint Of Gold) saying he looked up, thought he’d won the Derby – and then he saw something many lengths ahead.

“Shergar always held a good position in the race, was always in the right place at the right time, he quickened and went on.

“He was an unbelievable horse.”

The racecard for the 1981 Derby at Epsom opened on the page featuring the reference to Shergar
The racecard for the 1981 Derby at Epsom opened on the page featuring the reference to Shergar

It was a staggering success that saw Shergar, who carried the famous colours of the Aga Khan, rise above the normal racehorse and become a legend on and off the track.

His racing career was guided by Sir Michael Stoute, who sent him out to win six of his eight races, taking the Sandown Classic Trial by 10 lengths and the Chester Vase by 12 on the way to Epsom, where he started a 10-11 chance and won in a stroll.

With Swinburn suspended, Shergar was ridden by Lester Piggott to win the Irish Derby by four lengths, but the young rider was back in the saddle for another four-length victory against the older generations in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Both Shergar’s defeats came at Doncaster, where he closed his racing career with an inexplicable loss at long odds-on in the St Leger.

The wonder horse was syndicated for stud duties and arrived at the Aga Khan’s Ballymany Stud in County Kildare with everything ahead of him, but armed raiders stole him one winter’s night in 1983.

With the kidnappers apparently unaware that the Aga Khan was no longer the sole owner of the horse, demands for payment of a massive ransom came to nothing.

It all ended in tragedy, of course, and it remains a mystery as to where the horse’s remains are buried, in some unmarked grave with no plaque or statue to celebrate his glory.

Image of Shergar’s empty stable box where was taken from on February 8, 1983 at the Aga Khan's stud farm in Ballymany, County Kildare
Image of Shergar’s empty stable box where he was taken from on February 8, 1983 at the Aga Khan’s stud farm in Ballymany, County Kildare (PA)

Forty years on, Shergar’s name is as likely to be mentioned alongside that of another infamous absentee, Lord Lucan, as with the Derby, and feature films and TV documentaries have cast no more than a shadowy light on his final days.

The racing world, however, has not forgotten. The abiding memory will forever be of Epsom in 1981, and that wonderful moment rounding Tattenham Corner when Walter Swinburn flicked the switch and the afterburners powered on.

All that disappeared that day was the opposition as Shergar cleared away, his rivals withering to dots in the distance.