Aidan O’Brien winning another Investec Derby should never come as a surprise but even he appeared genuinely astounded by the identity of his sixth winner when Wings Of Eagles, a 40-1 shot ridden by journeyman jockey Padraig Beggy, swooped past his better fancied stablemate, Cliffs Of Moher, in the closing stages to win the 238th running of the Classic at Epsom on Saturday.
For a trainer whose horses generally win at short odds, it was the longest priced Derby winner since Snow Knight returned a 50-1 winner in 1974.
For the first 1600m Wings Of Eagles, nominally fifth or sixth in the Ballydoyle pecking order for this year’s race if you take jockey bookings as your guide, only had two runners behind him.
Up front his stablemates, Markus Jooste-owned Douglas Macarthur and The Anvil, set a searching gallop and while Douglas Macarthur hung on in there until the 400m marker, he was eventually caught and headed by Frankie Dettori-ridden 7-2 favourite Cracksman.
However, Dettori’s dreams of a third Derby soon evaporated as the 5-1 shot Cliffs Of Moher, having made his way from a long way back, hit the front 200m out. At that point it appeared for all the world Ryan Moore had picked the right one. But behind him still picking his way through traffic from the back was Beggy on Wings Of Eagles, a son of the 2011 Derby winner, Pour Moi.
He went through one gap so quickly, recalled the jockey afterwards, that he suddenly found himself on the heels of Dubai Thunder and a couple of times his run was interrupted by having to switch him round horses coming back at him.
When Wings Of Eagles saw daylight, though, it was as if he had just joined in. He flew up the outside, making up five lengths inside the final 200m to catch Cliffs Of Moher 50m from the line before going on to win by 0.75 lengths , with a neck back to Cracksman in third, and 0.75 lengths to the other Frankel colt in the field, Eminent, in fourth.
“I dreamed of winning the Derby when I was young,” said Beggy, 31, who has endured more downs than ups in his career and was making his Derby debut.
“And I’d nearly given up on it. It doesn’t matter what price they are if you’re riding for Aidan O’Brien, they all have a chance. I can’t describe the feeling in words, but I’ll go down in history – I’ll be remembered for something at least!”
The jockey, who joined O’Brien two years ago in January after returning from Australia with his tail between his legs following a 15-month drug ban, has only just become a regular on the Ballydoyle jockey roster, but had only registered four winners in three years and just a single win this season.
“I am a journeyman jockey,” he said holding court at the post-race press conference and giving the familiar winning party a blast of fresh air.
“I travelled the whole way round the world to get on a horse like this but it didn’t happen until I came back home. Aidan didn’t tell me about the ride until Thursday morning.”
Speaking about the race, the Dubliner explained: “I was on a good horse and he looked a million dollars. One jockey down at the start said he was the pick of the paddock. They rolled along from the start.
“I was a bit further back than I wanted but the horse was in a rhythm and breathing.
“I was behind Ryan and, though I was in a bad position, I was happy enough. I was waiting for Ryan to get the splits and I was going to follow him through.
“Turning in, I knew I’d pass the back half of the field – I wasn’t sure about the whole lot, though.
“Two out I thought I had a chance and a furlong (200m) out I thought I’d win. He’s actually won a shade cosily. I’ve won plenty of big handicaps but I could get used to this.”
Like everyone else, Moore thought he had his third Derby just about sewn up when he hit the front. “He ran a great race and I thought I had it won,” he conceded. “He got a bit tired in the last 50 yards.”
Back in third, Dettori, who was given a four-day whip ban, said: “Cracksman is still a bit raw and immature. He was on and off the bridle but came home good.” – Daily Telegraph