Adayar runs away from the pack to take victory in the Epsom Derby as jockey Adam Kirby takes a dramatic win after being replaced by Frankie Dettori on the anticipated John Leeper ride
- Adam Kirby was replaced by Frankie Dettori aboard the anticipated ride John Leeper
- He rode Adayar instead and took the 16-1 outsider to an unexpected win
- Adayar stormed away from the pack to win against Mojo Star and Hurricane Lane
Derby Week turned into an emotional rollercoaster for Adam Kirby. After losing the ride to a leading contender, he took the biggest win of his career over 16-1 shot Adayar.
No wonder it took him five minutes in the weigh room to take stock and organize his thoughts before coming out for the trophy presentation.
When Kirby lost the ride to John Leeper’s 8-1 shot of Frankie Dettori after the Italian unexpectedly became available on Wednesday, the Weighing Room was where Kirby looked like he would be watching the most important race of the Flat season.
Adam Kirby was replaced by John Leeper but instead drove Adayar to a shocking Derby win
But Kirby’s close association with trainer Charlie Appleby saw his Cazoo Derby dream rekindled when he was called up to Adayar. Although he was an impressive four-and-a-half-length winner, Ed Dunlop-trained John Leeper only beat two of the 11 runners home.
To add another twist to the story, Kirby had originally been offered the mount at Lingfield Derby Trial runner-up Adayar, but turned it down because he had “given his word” that he would ride John Leeper a few minutes earlier. With an award-winning understatement, Kirby said, “What goes around, comes around.”
It was Kirby’s first classic win on only his second ride in the £1.125 million Derby, after finishing 11th at Dubai Thunder in 2017.
The competition couldn’t keep up as Adayar ran away at the end of the pack
But the 32-year-old delivered the coolest performance when Adayar braved unfavorable stable one – the last winner to win from there was Oath in 1999 – and hugged the inside of the rail before making a race-winning, ground-saving move on the inside of pace-setting Gear Up two stages.
Owned by Sheik Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, Adayar defeated Richard Hannon-trained 50-1 shot Mojo Star to give trainer Appleby his second Derby win after Masar in 2018.
Appleby also trained third-placed Hurricane Lane, who had gone into the race as his first string with Appleby’s No1 jockey William Buick on board. But the 2021 Derby was all about the winning jockey, a rider whose talents haven’t been given the chances he deserved.
Trainer Charlie Appleby holds the trophy after Adayar’s win – his second Epsom Derby victor
Asked how he reacted when he lost the John Leeper ride, Kirby said, “You wouldn’t have wanted to be around me for the first hour of that night, but then I got over it. Fortunately, I spoke to Charlie relatively quickly. His loyalty is incredible.
“He had booked a jockey (for Adayar) and that was a champion jockey (Oisin Murphy). But he was kind enough to let me ride the horse. All credit to him – he’s a great trainer, a great man and I can’t thank him enough.
“It hasn’t sunk yet. To be able to ride class horses when you’re just a regular jockey and get the chance to deliver on a big day is a great day. It will be a day never to be forgotten. I’m not really one to get excited about things, but it’s a real buzz. I hope my kids watch.’
The 16-1 underdog took the win from Mojo Star, Hurricane Lane and Mac Swiney
Kirby may not hold an official position at Appleby’s stable, but he has a close relationship with it, riding over 100 winners with a 30 percent pass rate.
He also helped break into Adayar and Appleby’s other two Derby runners at the stable near Newmarket that he runs with partner Megan.
There was also a nice symmetry in Kirby’s 40th anniversary win of Shergar’s momentous Derby success under the late Walter Swinburn.
On Wednesday evening it was expected that Kirby would drive John Leeper during the Cazoo Derby
As a young rider, Kirby was Swinburn’s stable jockey when he started training. Kirby added: “He was a great man. He always taught me to be very cool and calm and relaxed about things, although I wouldn’t say that’s coming out of me today!’
Adayar’s win was also the first in the Derby for his father Frankel.
The achievement of the David Egan-ridden Mojo Star was a huge moment for Amo Racing, the developing racing venture of football agent Kia Joorabchian, whose clients include ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho.
Dettori and John Leeper made a late attack after a slow start, but were beaten well