Wings Of Eagles delivers another Derby for Aidan O’Brien

Jockey Pádraig Beggy leads home shock 40-1 outsider ahead of stablemate

 

Wings Of Eagles and jockey Pádraig Beggy pulled off one of the most unlikely victories in the Investec Epsom Derby’s 238-year history when giving Aidan O’Brien a sixth success in the world’s most famous Classic on Saturday.

The 40-1 outsider beat O’Brien’s first-string Cliffs Of Moher and Ryan Moore into second with Frankie Dettori on the 7-2 favourite Cracksman in third.

Wings Of Eagles had been all but ignored in most Derby considerations beforehand – the sight of 31-year-old Beggy beating two of the world’s most famous jockeys in racing’s most coveted prize added further to the sense of shock at the result.

The Co Meath native has had just a handful of rides this season and his primary role at O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stables over the last two and a half years has been as a highly-regarded work rider.

But on Saturday a turbulent if unspectacular career in the saddle up to now took a spectacular twist in racing’s most coveted prize.

Padraig Beggy riding Wings Of Eagles (2L, pink cap) win The Investec Derby from Cliffs Of Moher (C, dark blue). Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Padraig Beggy riding Wings Of Eagles (2L, pink cap) win The Investec Derby from Cliffs Of Moher (C, dark blue). Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Having had a best tally of 22 winners in Ireland in 2010, Beggy’s fortunes subsequently dipped to such an extent he moved to Australia where his most notable and unwanted claim to fame was a one-year ban for a positive cocaine test and giving false evidence relating to the sample.

Beggy returned to Ireland and started working for O’Brien at the start of 2015. Although down the pecking order of jockeys at Ballydoyle he had won the most important race of his career in April when Hydrangea won a Group Three at Leopardstown for the Coolmore team.

However, pressed into service for a first Derby ride among O’Brien’s six-strong team, Beggy grabbed his chance in style and stunned Epsom by running down Cliffs Of Moher in the final strides to win by three quarters of a length.

“When you’re riding for Aidan O’Brien you don’t worry about the price because you always have a chance,” he said. “To be honest I’d nearly given up on the big days but Aidan O’Brien has made it happen. It’s happy days.”

O’Brien himself equalled the six Derby victories of his legendary Ballydoyle predecessor Vincent O’Brien and was full of praise for his unlikely hero.

“Pádraig is a brilliant rider, a world class rider, strong, has a great mind and is tactically very aware. I can’t tell you how delighted we are to have him,” he said.

Wings Of Eagles was the one horse among the Ballydoyle team not by Galileo and he replicated his sire, Pour Moi, who won the 2011 Derby with a devastating late burst.

It represented a huge step up on his previous form, including his sole start this season when runner-up to Venice Beach in the Chester Vase. Venice Beach, under O’Brien’s son, Donnacha, could finish only 12th in the Derby.

Instead it was a colt whose only previous victory had come in a maiden at Killarney last August whose name is now on the Derby roll-of-honour as the 20th Irish trained winner of the great race.

“I was drawn beside Ryan [Moore] and I decided to follow him and let probably the best horse in the race take me into the race,” Beggy added. “A furlong out I thought if I get a run I’ll win. And his best furlong of the race was the last one.”

Wings Of Eagles was a huge result for bookmakers with one spokesman reporting: “To see the 40-1 shot come home in front in the biggest race of the Flat season was the stuff of dreams.”

O’Brien secured his fifth Classic of 2017 with the victory and his 71st in all. But in a race which has the names of riding legends on its roll of honour, the focus was inevitably on its newest addition.

“Pádraig had him in a lovely rhythm, nice and balanced,” Ireland’s champion trainer said afterwards.

“Séamus [Heffernan] rode the horse in the Vase and ran a really good race. He’s been working well since.

“We were worried Cliffs Of Moher just came to hand too late. It was a rush to get him to Chester but he had to have a run. He got there today and just got tired.

“It’s possible the first two could go to the Irish Derby. I’d imagine Cliffs Of Moher is open to the most improvement. Ryan just felt the last half furlong was a bit much today. But he’s only a baby,” O’Brien added.

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