Pain turns to Derby joy for Kirby

·4-min read

Adam Kirby's despair at being jocked off John Leeper ended in joy as he won the Epsom Derby on Adayar giving trainer Charlie Appleby his second win in the blue riband of British flat racing on Saturday.

Appleby had three runners in the race but it was the outsider of the three Adayar who came home 4 1/2 lengths clear of 50/1 chance Mojo Star.

Appleby also trained the third home Hurricane Lane with 79-year-old Irish trainer Jim Bolger's Mac Swiney fourth.

Unlike last year, when no spectators were permitted due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kirby returned to raucous cheers from around 4,000 spectators -- the amount allowed under health protocols.

Favourite Bolshoi Ballet had every chance but faded to finish seventh of the 11 runners while John Leeper never got into contention under Frankie Dettori and came in ninth.

Kirby's joy was champion jockey Oisin Murphy's loss as he had been slated to ride the winner until Dettori was put on John Leeper, bumping Kirby onto John Leeper.

Kirby had admitted to needing an hour to calm down when he learned he had lost the ride on John Leeper but all that was forgotten once he pulled up Adayar.

"Obviously there are ups and downs in racing and swings and roundabouts," said Kirby.

"Charlie Appleby is a top man and I cannot thank him enough, he has a great team.

"All I could think of was my mother, she would be watching me, she'd be happy."

Appleby was delighted to have won for the second time after Masar prevailed also for Dubai's Godolphin Operation in 2018.

"I was really happy with a second Derby till Aidan (O'Brien who has won it eight times) patted me on the back and I realised I am about 38 (classic) wins behind him!

"I have won one so I know how hard it is.

"As I said before, winning the first one ticked boxes of what I had to achieve and it is like driving a car. You do not know what it is like to drive a Ferrari till you have driven one.

"These days make up for the down ones when you go home and you are not in the best of moods, so I have to thank my family for putting up with that."

- 'A bit lifeless' -

Appleby has a long association with Kirby, who has ridden over 100 winners for him, though none as prestigious as the Derby.

"I am delighted for Adam, he gave him a fantastic ride, he was hungry for it.

"Adam knows this horse better than most and it is also well done to the team as he is a homebred, huge team effort I cannot thank everybody enough."

"Adam may have said he was tagged as an all-weather jockey but winning the Epsom Derby says it all about his ability.

"He is far from being an all-weather jockey."

O'Brien was left non-plussed by Bolshoi Ballet's flop.

"He just ran a bit lifeless," said O'Brien.

"What the reason was, I'm not sure. It doesn't work every day. That's the way life is."

Dettori said John Leeper's poor showing was down to him failing to last the 1 1/2 miles 2400 metres) distance.

"It was just too far for him at this stage of his life," said the 50-year-old Italian.

The field had been reduced to 11 shortly before the race when trainer William Haggas withdrew Mohaafeth as he felt the horse could not win on the rain-affected ground.

Although Queen Elizabeth II was absent, the crowd was still entertained prior to racing with some of the pageantry associated with the occasion.

An army band marched down the track under the beating sun, the famed Red Devils did a fly-past and a sky diver landed in front of the stands trailing a massive Union Jack behind him.

He landed face first on the hallowed turf by the winning post -- a few hours later Kirby was ready to kiss the ground as the victory sank in.

pi/pb