Pádraig Beggy lands another long-shot Classic as Sovereign wins Irish Derby

Trainer Aidan O’Brien wins Curragh race for the 13th time with 33-1 outsider

Jockey Pádraig Beggy pulled off another long-priced Classic coup at the Curragh on Saturday by guiding the 33-1 outsider Sovereign to a shock Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby success.

Two years after astounding the sport with a 40-1 victory in the Epsom Derby on Wings Of Eagles, Beggy pulled off a similar long-priced result on Aidan O’Brien’s 13th winner of Ireland’s premier Classic.

Prior to Saturday, the 33-year-old rider hadn’t had a winner all season. But he made all on what appeared to be the fourth-string of O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team and nothing was able to land a blow on Sovereign.

Anthony Van Dyck, the Epsom hero four weeks ago, and a 5-4 favourite to give Ryan Moore a first success in the race, vainly gave chase in the straight while Norway completed a sixth Irish Derby 1-2-3 for O'Brien.


It was a first Derby run at the revamped €81 million Curragh and on a warm sunny evening Sovereign’s success appeared to suck the air out of a Classic attendance reported as 11,957.

Hopes that Madhmoon might give veteran local trainer Kevin Prendergast a first ever Irish Derby never looked like coming through, the 5-2 joint-second favourite just staying on into fourth.

The other joint-second favourite Broome missed the break and always looked to be fighting a losing battle afterwards before finishing sixth.

None of that mattered to Beggy, who has taken an unlikely route to Classic fame but can now boast wins in European racing’s two major Derby prizes.

The Dunboyne, Co Meath native returned to Ireland in 2014 after getting a one year ban in Australia for a positive cocaine test.

Hired by O’Brien in a mainly work-rider role, the numerical strength in depth of the Ballydoyle team means Beggy has secured unlikely but hugely prestigious victories on well-bred outsiders.

“I’m over the moon. This would be more important to me [than the Epsom Derby] as an Irishman,” Beggy said.

“I served my time with Kevin Prendergast just up the road and this was the race you grew up wanting to win. That was my main aim as an apprentice.

“I’m just very, very lucky I’ve won the English and Irish Derby. That is down to a big group of people but I would say mainly Aidan O’Brien to put me on. Aidan would give you confidence and that helps.

“I just got into a lovely comfortable rhythm and I felt like I could go quicker all through the race. My horse really enjoyed here, a big galloping track.

“I knew I was after quickening and lengthening up the straight. I did think that something would be coming to me, and when I was close enough to have a peep at the big screen I knew I was clear.

“I just said ‘keep him organised to the line now, you’ve won’. Dreams come true!” he added.

Once again it was a Derby dominated by the produce of the prepotent 2001 winner Galileo, with the first three sired by him.

“It was always there, and he’s a Galileo: once these Galileo’s start galloping they don’t stop,” said O’Brien afterwards as many struggled to explain the longest priced Irish Derby winner since Weavers Hall in 1973.

Sovereign had cut out the pace at Epsom before fading to 10th behind Anthony Van Dyck. His only previous win was an admittedly wide-margin 14-length success in a his maiden on heavy ground at Galway last September.

After his shock victory he is a 10-1 shot to secure another Classic in September’s Doncaster St Leger.

“The winner is a staying horse and he’s going to stay well. He won’t mind going the Leger trip,” said O’Brien.

“He’s a great solid horse to have because he’ll jump and he’ll go along in any kind of a good race.

“He could go to the King George or go to Grand Prix de Paris in France and then could have a break and go to the Leger.

“He’s a solid horse and very uncomplicated. Pádraig gave him a great ride.” Both the Grand Prix de Paris and the King George are also options for Anthony Van Dyck. The Epsom winner got warm beforehand but stuck at his job well enough, finishing two and a half lengths ahead of Norway in third.

The first Irish Derby held at the new facility was held in superb summer weather, although there was the competition of an All-Ireland senior football qualifier in nearby Newbridge, which had a throw in 20 minutes before the Classic ‘off’.

The boss of the Derby sponsor, Dubai Duty Free, Colm McLoughlin, had said he expected a crowd of over 20,000. Ultimately the official attendance was just short of 12,000, less than half of the Derby day figure given just four years ago.

Despite that there were noticeable queues in the ground floor hall of the new Aga Khan stand, including for the toilets and in particular for the Guinness Bar.

It’s unlikely many of them had the big race winner backed either and a Paddy Power spokesman reported: “That was the best result in the book for the layers and a real skinner.”

Ger Lyons and Colin Keane headlined the rest of Derby day with a sparkling hat-trick, highlighted by Siskin’s maintaining his unbeaten record in style in the Group Two Gain Railway Stakes.

The 4-6 favourite travelled like a winner throughout and proved two and a half lengths too good for Ballydoyle’s Monarch Of Egypt.

As a race that has thrown up future Classic heroes such George Washington and Mastercraftsman, it looks a case of the sky being the limit for Siskin and he was cut to 12-1 for next year’s 2,000 Guineas.

However, his immediate target will be Group One glory in the Phoenix Stakes. Lyons’s sole top-flight victory to date came eight years ago with Lightening Pearl in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket. A domestic Group One however would mean plenty to the Co Meath based trainer.

Earlier Buffer Zone’s first run for Lyons proved successful in the six-furlong handicap while Basic Law bounced back from a lacklustre run at Tipperary six days ago to land the mile premier handicap.

Joseph O’Brien didn’t have a Derby runner this time but last year’s ‘Blue Riband’ winning trainer again made festival hay with his own lucrative hat-trick to add to Iridessa’s Group One Pretty Polly Stakes victory on Friday.

Derby dreams for Buckhurst didn’t work out this season but the 2-1 favourite landed a Group Three success in the International Stakes, beating off the Ballydoyle hope Blenheim Palace.

“We brought him over to Ascot last week but we didn’t run because the ground was quite soft. He loved that bit of good ground today.

“We won’t be in a rush with him. He didn’t run at two and he’s had plenty of racing so far this year.

“He’ll step up in trip at some stage, he’s an Australia, but he doesn’t need to go further yet. He’ll got a mile and a half at some stage and he should be a better horse next year,” O’Brien said.

Earlier on the card a huge run at Ascot seven days previously proved no barrier to the topweight Speak In Colours landing the Listed six-furlong Dash.

The four-year-old was fourth to Blue Point in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and the quick turnaround proved no problem to the 11-8 favourite.

“It was a big enough ask to come back. This time last week he still hadn’t run at Ascot and he ran a huge race there,” Joseph O’Brien said.

“Donnacha [O’Brien] said he jumped and travelled well. He said he moved on him and he thought he was going to win well but just in the last hundred yards he’s flattened out a bit. We’ve no immediate plan. He has plenty of entries and options,” he added.

Shakespear’sgallery completed O’Brien’s hat-trick in the concluding two-mile handicap.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column