Adayar ridden by Adam Kirby won the Epsom Derby at 16-1

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

It took Adam Kirby just two minutes 36 seconds at Epsom on Saturday to shake off his critics’ suggestion that he was merely an ‘all-weather jockey’, and his own self-effacing description ‘run of the mill’, and replace them with a prefix he will care less about ever dispelling; Derby-winning.

Kirby’s four-and-a half-length victory on the not unbacked but under the radar 16-1 shot Adayar in the 242nd Cazoo Derby was one of the most popular results in recent years, not only because he has worked hard for his success.

The victory was given added spice because he had been ‘jocked off’ the better-fancied John Leeper to be replaced by Frankie Dettori.

Whether you call it sod’s law in reverse or poetic justice that alone went down well with the public – everyone has been metaphorically ‘jocked off’ in life whether in sport, work or, indeed, love.

Everyone can relate to that gut-wrenching feeling of not being considered quite good enough – even if you are replaced by an acknowledged champion.

Not so long ago Kirby would have been at Goodwood on Sunday, Lingfield on Monday and Wolverhampton on Tuesday but, this season, with Clive Cox, Charlie Appleby and Jane Chapple-Hyam – "great people, they understand me and I understand them" – to ride for, he has stepped off the carousel in a bid to equalise his work-life balance and, a week ahead of Royal Ascot, he will not be back in action again until Wednesday. 

Instead he had a party for his kids and their cousins on Sunday as the previous day’s result was still sinking in. “Unbelievable,” he said. “It was very exciting and I hope he turns out to be a true champion. It felt like it looked – he travelled round beautifully. He’s a big, strong boy but a gentleman to deal with.”

Kirby under-estimates his own contribution to the victory; Adayar’s size meant getting the rail to guide him round Tattenham Corner was a huge help.

And though he benefited hugely from Dettori stepping in to ride John Leeper and was able to get back on Adayar, he also fully understands that when the colt runs next he will be back to third in the Godolphin pecking order behind William Buick and James Doyle for the ride.

𝐀𝐝𝐚𝐲𝐚𝐫 and Adam Kirby win the Cazoo Derby 🏆🏇🙌#ITVRacing #TheDerby pic.twitter.com/afSzlVxMN9

— ITV Racing (@itvracing) June 5, 2021

“William will have him back,” he said. “He’s the stable jockey and if he can’t it will be James. They are fantastic lads and jockeys. I was just lucky to have the red cap on Saturday.

“Everyone who rides on the Flat dreams of winning the Derby – you can’t win it if you’re not in it but hopefully I can keep getting on nice horses because of it and show I’m as good as the top boys.”

At Chantilly in France Aidan O’Brien won one of the few European Classics to have eluded him on Sunday when St Mark’s Basilica, the 11-4 favourite, won the Prix du Jockey-Club under a beautifully uncomplicated ride by ‘super-sub’ Ioritz Mendizabal. The jockey also won last year’s race on Mishriff for John Gosden because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Hugging the rail and handy throughout, the winner burst through a furlong-and-a-half out to beat Sealiway a length and three quarters and add the French Derby to the French 2,000 Guineas last month.

O’Brien said races like the Eclipse and Champion Stakes would now be on St Mark’s Basilica’s agenda. He seemed less sure than the jockey about the colt getting a mile-and-a-half in the Arc, however. “It’s possible,” he said, “but he has a lot of speed.”

He put a line through the favourite Bolshoi Ballet’s performance in the Derby after the colt returned with a cut to his hind leg, a wound he received in the first 150 yards. “He’s very sore this morning,” O’Brien explained. “He will be out of action for about 10 days.”    

Epsom Derby result:

1 Adayar (A Kirby) 16-1
2 Mojo Star (David Egan) 50-1
3 Hurricane Lane (W Buick) 6-1

Frankel continues to cement his reputation as the horse of the century

By Oliver Brown

The cobalt skies above Epsom matched Adam Kirby’s Godolphin silks to perfection. And yet this Derby triumph belonged not just to a journeyman 32-year-old jockey, or to Sheikh Mohammed’s thoroughbred juggernaut, but to a majestic stallion standing a couple of hours up the road at Banstead Manor Stud, on the outskirts of Newmarket.

If there were a few extra oats last night for Frankel, racing’s very own Usain Colt, it was because he had just sired his first winner in the world’s premier classic.

Two of his progeny, Adayar and Hurricane Lane, were first and third in a thrillingly unpredictable race. A couple of others – Mohafeeth and well-fancied John Leeper, from whom Kirby had been unceremoniously jocked off – filled out the field.

As a racehorse, Frankel was by some estimates the most glorious specimen in 300 years, achieving not just a perfect record across his 14 appearances in 26 months, but an unheard-of degree of dominance. These days, as a stallion whose liaisons can cost £175,000 a time, he is proving similarly prolific. He continues to cement his reputation as the horse of the century, the gift who keeps on giving.

Nobody could say with certainty how Frankel would fare when he repaired to a life of lucrative Suffolk assignations. He had the requisite lineage, given that his own father, Galileo, remains uniquely sought-after as a sire, having established himself as the most successful source of Group One winners in history. But bloodstock can be an inexact science.

For a start, crushing victories do not always equate, in equine retirements, to rampant libidos. Simon Mockridge, stud director at Banstead Manor, once told the story of how War Emblem, who won the 1999 Kentucky Derby, rejected just about every mare offered up to him in the covering yard.

Frankel, it would appear, has no such issues. In his burgeoning stallion career, he has already yielded a winner of the St Leger, in Logician, and of the Oaks, in Anapurna. Now, in the wake of this expertly-ridden victory for Adayar, taking an inside line so bold that he almost skimmed the paint off the rail, he has only the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas left to conquer in the canon of Classics.

Frankel was unbeaten in his 14-race career

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

At the very least, he deserved an idle, sun-kissed afternoon in his paddock as a reward. For all that his diet is carefully controlled to guarantee maximum potency, the life of a super-stallion can be a draining business, with Frankel required to cover a minimum 130 mares a season.

Still, he is fast justifying his phenomenal fees. While Frankel never ran further than 10 furlongs during his unforgettable pomp, he has, to judge by Adayar’s performance here, equipped his stock with abundant stamina.

With Galileo now 23, the evidence mounts that his masterpiece, Frankel, could yet take over as the most prodigious stallion of all. While the next generation of racing fans will have grown up without watching Frankel compete in the flesh, they can relish seeing his offspring pick up where he left off on his retreat to stud in 2012.

Although Adayar himself might struggle to be recalled among the finest Derby winners, the story of how Kirby acquired the ride was worthy of the stage. One minute this likeable jockey was making up the numbers at Lingfield or Wolverhampton, the next he was prevailing in Flat racing’s greatest showpiece. The fact that did so on a 16-1 shot, mere hours after being replaced on John Leeper by Frankie Dettori, made the moment doubly delicious.

Epsom is a place that venerates the immortals, having used this year’s Derby to herald the 70th anniversary of Lester Piggott’s 1951 success on Zucchero, in what would be the first of his nine wins. But it also celebrates the outsiders, and seldom more loudly than when reformed hellraiser Padraig Beggy won the 2017 instalment, an improbable restoration after he had previously served a ban for cocaine.

Kirby did not have the luxury of being lauded by 100,000 fans, but the 4,000 allowed through the gates under Covid restrictions received him rapturously. Asked for his emotions in the immediate aftermath, he could only express his hope that his mother and children were watching.

He could be assured that even the Queen was tuning in. Seeing the Epsom parade ring without her was akin to finding the infield denuded of the signature double-decker buses. Just as the first Saturday in June has become south London’s grand day out on the Downs, this is an occasion the monarch is disinclined to miss.

In her 74-year reign, she has been absent for only four: the first in 1956, when she was on a state visit to Sweden, the second in 1984, which coincided with the D-Day anniversary, and the third last summer, amid the miseries of the first lockdown.

This time, the rumoured explanation for her no-show was deliciously grand. She was staying away, royal sources explained, because it would not be a traditional Derby day. Perhaps not, but the contributions of Kirby, Adayar and the ever-reliable Frankel made sure that it was no less memorable for its novelty.