Adayar was a hugely popular winner of the Epsom Derby on Saturday with virtually everyone in racing delighted for his rider Adam Kirby. The 32 year old was due to partner John Leeper but was jocked off a couple of days beforehand when Frankie Dettori became available. Kirby therefore took over on the son of Frankel after Oisin Murphy had been provisionally booked. A wide margin juvenile winner at Nottingham last backend, his limitations had seemingly been exposed in two runs this term. Runner-up in both the Sandown Classic Trial in April and the Lingfield Derby Trial, he had looked a strong stayer but it was questionable whether he possessed the pace to win a Derby. However, Kirby positioned Charlie Appleby's colt beautifully throughout and he quickened through a gap on the rail with a couple of furlongs to run. Once in the clear, he powered away to win by four and a half lengths. It was an impressive performance regardless of whether those in behind underperformed. Out of a mare who finished runner-up in the Irish 1000 Guineas for the disgraced Mahmood Al Zarooni, he is not bred to be a thorough stayer but it will be a surprise if Adayar isn't steered towards the St Leger. Kirby was gaining his first Classic win and it is thoroughly deserved.
As far as some of those horses in behind, the short price favourite Bolshoi Ballet didn't live up to expectations and was in trouble some way from the finish. Perhaps the slow ground played against Aidan O'Brien's runner. The aforementioned John Leeper wasn't ready for such a steep rise in class. Frankie Dettori anchored the colt in rear and, while he made a sweeping move on the outside rounding Tattenham Corner, he was unable to sustain it and didn't get home.
One of the talking points beforehand was the relatively late withdrawal of leading contender Mohaafeth. His connections had remarked on numerous occasions during the build up to the race that soft ground would be a disadvantage - therefore the rain which arrived on Friday was always going to mean his participation was in doubt. The final straw, I suspect, came from his breeder Philippa Cooper of Normandie Stud who featured in an article in Saturday's Racing Post. She was praying that William Haggas would take him out because of the soft ground. Both her and the trainer know much more about Mohaafeth than anyone else - therefore some comments in the media saying it was a difficult decision to understand is nonsense (the ground was described as dead). William Haggas' priority is for the horse and his owner, no one else and he was doing the best for the pair. I sincerely hope the Frankel colt comes out and wins the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot this month. The Epsom Derby is the greatest Flat race of all but it has a history of ruining horses - English King is a prime example from last year. There is a reason why William Haggas is at the top of his profession.
With the exception of the three Group 1 races, the rest of the two day card at Epsom was ordinary at best. Duke of Firenze has been a tremendous horse for his connections and it is admirable that he is still running well at the age of twelve. However, the fact he sneaked in at the bottom of the weights in the Dash on Saturday off a mark of 78, eight years after winning the five furlongs event speaks volumes about the quality of the 2021 version.
Twenty four hours later St Mark's Basilica provided Aidan O'Brien with his first win in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly. Last season's Dewhurst winner had landed the French 2000 Guineas last month and took the step up to ten furlongs in his stride. Bought for 1,300,000gns, the half-brother to former stablemate and 2000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia, he is a hugely exciting prospect and arguably the best three year old in Europe at present. A length and three quarters winner, it will be interesting to see if the son of Siyouni takes on the older horses in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown next month. Despite only finishing eighth, I thought Derab ran creditably. Drawn wide and shuffled back early on, his lack of experience was evident in the homestraight before staying on under Martin Harley. He remains a promising type who will be winning in Pattern company sooner rather than later.
I am currently working on the Royal Ascot Update - please go to the Publications section of the site to order a copy. The Update is £10.00.
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