Charlie Appleby was delighted to see Wirko earn himself a place in the Cazoo Derby with a last-gasp victory in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom.
An intriguing field of eight runners went to post for the Listed contest, with Richard Fahey’s Pythagoras leading the octet for much of the 10-furlong journey.
John and Thady Gosden’s Uncle Bryn, a son of Derby hero Sea The Stars, was the 11-10 favourite following successive wide-margin wins on the all-weather – and briefly hit the front passing the two-furlong marker under Frankie Dettori.
However, he was mastered late on by Martyn Meade-trained filly Technique, before 11-2 chance Wirko – making his turf debut in the hands of William Buick – picked them both up to claim top honours by a head.
Kingman colt Wirko, who had previously finished second at Wolverhampton before going one better at Kempton in early November, was not entered for the Derby – but is now guaranteed a starting place after landing this ‘win and you’re in’ contest.
Appleby said: “I felt that every horse in the field today had similar credentials and as it’s turned out, the first three home were the least experienced in the field.
“Our horse had wintered well and we felt 10 furlongs was going to suit him.
“He has a great staying pedigree on the dam’s side, so he ticks a few nice boxes (for the Derby).
“He was one of the horses we hadn’t entered for the Derby, so we thought that he could go and earn his stripes into the race today.”
The Moulton Paddocks handler plans to give Wirko – who was introduced at 16-1 for the premier Classic by Betfair – one more run before returning to Epsom on the first Saturday in June.
He added: “He’s in the Derby now and we’ll try to get one more run into him to give him some more experience.
“Whether he goes to Chester or Lingfield, we’ll see just have to see – we’ll see how the horse comes out of the race and take it from there.
“As you know, experience is invaluable going to Epsom, especially in the Derby”
Wirko’s victory continues a fantastic start to the season for Appleby, particularly with his Classic contingent.
Just last week he saddled the first two home in the Craven Stakes in Master Of The Seas and La Barrosa, while One Ruler heads ante-post lists for the 2000 Guineas.
“I was hopeful that we had a nice bunch of three-year-olds,” said Appleby.
“We might not have had a Group One-winning two-year-old last season, but I just felt with the type of horse we had, we had a lot of strength in depth in the three-year-old department this year.
“They’ve all wintered well and had the pedigrees to do well from two to three – and be three-year-olds, more importantly.
“So far it’s gone well and long may it continue – it’s a long season ahead of us!”
Like Wirko, Technique is set to be back at Epsom next month, for the Oaks.
Meade said: “It looked as though she handled the track and we always thought she would. She is good at home and does everything you want. I just loved the way she just cruised around the side there and coped with the bends. The whole idea was to try her on this track.
“I think we will come back here. I don’t think we will go anywhere in between as we can do it all at home. Why risk her doing anything else?”
Third-home Uncle Bryn will improve for the experience, according to Gosden, who said: “He was coltish in proceedings and looking at everything. He will come on mentally for the run.”