Wednesday 22 November 2017

Derby upset proves racing remains the great leveller

Jockey Padraig Beggy celebrates after winning the Epsom Derby aboard Wings of Eagles. Photo credit: Steven Paston/PA Wire
Jockey Padraig Beggy celebrates after winning the Epsom Derby aboard Wings of Eagles. Photo credit: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Johnny Ward

A race essentially the refuge of millionaire owners was won by a jockey who, before Saturday, had 278 followers on Twitter.

It was a fairytale true to the 2017 narrative. Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power snared a Gold Cup with their first runner in it. Now Pádraig Beggy wins the Derby.

There's a photo of the four members of the O'Brien family who were not riding in the race - Aidan, Anne Marie, Joseph and Sarah - that is a caption competition. Joseph, whose Rekindling was down the field, seems gobsmacked, the ladies in consultation, Sarah beaming. To the right, Aidan rests against a running rail, armed with the expression of a man of few words whose bullock is being auctioned at the mart.

Aidan's namesake Vincent is credited with a statement that sounds cleverer than it is: "If you've three Derby horses, you have none." Of course, Vincent's maxim was from another era, far removed from Saturday, when Coolmore and Godolphin combined accounted for more than half of the Derby field.

I have no doubt that Wings Of Eagles, the 40/1 winner, is an inferior steed at home to Cliffs Of Moher, yet racing is a game of variables. Beggy said that he tracked Ryan Moore because he felt he was following the best horse in the race.

The journeyman rider noted that Wings Of Eagles was a little keen to post but anyone backing Cliffs Of Moher might reasonably have used their docket to cover discarded gum based on the pictures of him at the start. Lathered in sweat was a concern, even if so many Galileos tend to get warm; however, allied with how worked up he got, his head carriage so pronounced, it was little wonder he drifted in the market.

It is a race that demands the Sky+ function. My bets were Dubai Thunder and Cliffs Of Moher. Rarely do I punt two in the same race and it makes for taxing viewing, so one can only guess at O'Brien's emotions, his best horse collared by what the market deemed was one of his worst. He may not have spotted Wings Of Eagles once between the gates and the furlong marker.

It was a fine result for Frankel, which sired the third and the fourth. Cracksman emerged with credit, as it was his third start, he was keen and was the only one which mattered to be pretty close to the pace. Eminent, which had a straightforward trip, was just behind. While Dubai Thunder finished tenth, he was green and the market support implies there is more there. The same connections' Benbatl was a revelation; the Leger could be right up his street.

Cliffs Of Moher was probably the most talented runner and O'Brien was immediately thinking of his next race. From 14th place, respectful of the certainty that he expended some energy pre-race, his effort to mow everything down in front of him was reminiscent of US Army Ranger last year. He is now set to drop back in trip for the Coral-Eclipse, O'Brien said after local hope Brametot won yesterday's French Derby,

After the race, Tony McCoy erroneously told ITV viewers that it was "another winner for Galileo", a little like Marge Simpson roaring "No Bart, no!" when Lisa misbehaved: force of habit. Wings Of Eagles is by Pour Moi, which won the Derby in 2011. He has infused quite a bit of speed in his offspring: indeed, this was his first winner over a distance of a mile and a half or farther.

This was Beggy's fourth winner since the start of 2015, yet O'Brien might as well have called him one of the greats of the saddle afterwards, hailing the "world-class rider".

Galway Races do things quite cleverly and embargoed a story until today that record prize-money topping €2m will be a feature of the 2017 madcap. Who knows? Pádraig Beggy may even ride a winner there.

And his new followers on Twitter may notice that his homepage's wallpaper features none other than a World Heritage site by the Atlantic Ocean in Co Clare.


It has to be Beggy.


Steel Prince, 2s into odds-on near the off, was fourth at Navan on Saturday.


"I got knocked down and I picked myself up. The only priority for me was to get my licence back. I said to my brother: 'This won't be the last time you hear of me'." - Beggy on his drugs ban when in Australia.


Very sad to hear about Dandy Nichols. A great character and a very talented trainer

- Mark Johnston (@MJR_Middleham) pays tribute to the "sprint king", who passed away at the weekend aged 61.

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