Horses running for the win

It appeared to sink in in the midst of a still on horseback post-race interview, Adam Kirby broke off and just said ‘It’s the Derby lads!’

After a dramatic week of ups and downs for the jockey, Adam Kirby had just won the Derby on the Charlie Appleby trained and Godolphin-owned 16/1 chance Adayar. The story was something like the late great Dick Francis might have conjured up for one of his novels. At the beginning of the week Kirby was booked for plumb ride John Leeper only to be jocked off when Frankie Dettori became available with the defection of his intended ride High Definition. That must have been a devastating blow but then, seen at the time by most as a consolation prize, he was given the ride on 40/1 outsider Adayar. 

I think even the best-selling Francis might have had a job to come up with a story as good as this one. While the circumstances of the ride will fade with time, the form book will forever relate that Adayar won the Derby under Adam Kirby. Not a fluke, but a bolting home by four and a half lengths from Mojo Star and Hurricane Lane. Whilst the bookmakers might have initially dismissed the winner’s chance, still 40/1 with minutes to post time, some punters didn’t. It appears that there was a hefty late move which saw the Industry SP tumble to 16/1 in minutes. 

It’s a mystery where that support came from, quoted after the race, trainer Charlie Appleby said ‘All the credit goes to Sheikh Mohammed and Team Godolphin. We spoke on Wednesday night after the horses did their breeze in the morning and I will be honest, I said to His Highness I couldn’t be happier with them all, but I did feel this horse was more a Leger horse, and he said ‘Charlie, run him, there’s only one Derby. As always, he’s right.’ 

He added, ‘When you are 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. 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.

Talking about the circumstances around getting his winning mount, a delighted Adam Kirby said, ‘I was asked to ride John Leeper, which was an exciting moment. Five minutes later, Charlie Appleby rang me and asked me to ride this lad. I said I am sorry, I’ve just put my name to John Leeper. Mr Dunlop said, if you are going to ride him, put your name to him, and I was a man of my word and I did. And it’s worked out great that I lost the ride on him.

Aidan O’Brien’s Bolshoi Ballet sent off at 11/8 favourite found to have suffered a cut to his hind leg. The trainer was stoic in defeat telling reporters, ‘He just ran a bit lifeless. What the reason was, I am not sure,’ concluding, ‘It does not work every day. That is the way life is’.

On the betting front despite what looked like a fair punt on the winner in the last minutes of wagering there were no reports of bookmakers taking a clobbering over the 16/1 chance. Least not Star Sports, arguably the UK’s largest independent layer. They reported taking bets including £400,000 and £90,000 on Bolshoi Ballet while the largest single wager on the winner was £75 each-way at 33/1 which left them nicely on the right side of the Derby ledger. 

Simon Nott

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