Given the furore over Diore Lia and whether or not Gina Mangen was experienced enough to tackle the downs and curves of Epsom, it was somewhat ironic that the winning jockey should be someone who has ridden only 3 more winners in the past eighteen months than Miss Mangen, a woman wronged if ever a woman was wronged. I hope some good hearted owners now give her rides to help heal the scars inflicted by the mauling she received from the B.H.B.
I am not going to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes by saying I fancied Wings of Eagles but after Chester he was the one I marked down as a horse to run well at Epsom. In the event I neither tipped nor backed any horse, only wishing Sheikh Mohammed would finally see his colours in the winner’s enclosure. I nearly tipped Best Solution but managed to caution myself with memories of how badly my tips turn out. It was not to be for the good Sheikh this year, though I think Benbatl is a horse to stay friendly with for the rest of the season. Indeed if he runs in the Irish Derby I can see him turning the tables on those who finished in front of him at Epsom.
Wings of Eagles was a good winner, though, even if he was an ‘inconvenient’ winner for Coolmore. I tend to think that given the choice ‘the lads’ would have preferred Cliffs of Moher to have won and Aidan’s wry smile as Wings of Eagles pounced in the last hundred yards spoke volumes. Cliffs of Moher will win plenty in time, especially as a four-year-old, as Aidan keeps referring to him as ‘babyish’. Given that Cracksman, Eminent and Capri all ran with distinction and the aforementioned ‘Benbatl came from a long way back to finish fifth, this year’s race might prove a better renewal than the experts previously thought.
Of course the most satisfying part of the race this year was the winning rider, whoever he is? Padraig Beggy, that’s who. One of Aidan’s work riders. A jockey having only his ninth ride of the season and only his second winner. I wonder where he ranks now in the Ballydoyle pecking order? It also begs the question of how many other accomplished work-riders-cum-jockeys earn their crust away from the spotlight and the winning post? And if P.B.Beggy can be given such an opportunity why not many others? Like Wings of Eagles I expect Beggy to go on from here and establish himself as more than a morning glory. And it speaks volumes for Aidan O’Brien as a human being as well as an employer that he gave a Beggy the chance to redeem himself after his indiscretion with cocaine, promising him opportunities if he worked to earn them.
The reason the Derby was so enjoyable this year was the variety of scenarios a large number of runners bring to the race and there should now be every effort to have a similar number every year. At the moment the prize money only extends to sixth place and I would suggest this should be extended down to tenth place. The winner won nearly a million quid, so there is plenty of dosh in the pot to find the extra place money.
I would also stop fillies running in the race and place an embargo on apprentices riding in the race. To suggest a jockey should have ridden ten winners, though, as I believe is the rule for the Grand National, would be wrong, as Padraig Beggy so ably proved.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.