Flat RacingHorse Racing

Steve Jones: “Adam Kirby is top class. And Adayar might well be, too”

June 7, 2021January 7th, 2022

THE world and its significant other lined up to congratulate Adam Kirby for a Cazoo Derby victory that seemed a success for natural justice.

Kirby had been jocked off a more fancied Epsom runner, John Leeper, by Frankie Dettori in the days leading up to the Classic.

It left Kirby free to ride Adayar, ironically one of three Derby colts from Dettori’s former employers at Godolphin.

The beautifully-bred son of Frankel was well known to Kirby. He had never ridden him in a race but he had broken him in as a youngster at his farm near Newmarket.

The jockeys’ wheel of fortune spun in the right direction for Kirby but few seemed to spare many thoughts for champion jockey Oisin Murphy, who had been due to ride Adayar in the Derby.

He was instead confined to the sidelines as the role of commentator. His turn will surely come and it’s hard to argue Kirby didn’t deserve his first Classic victory.

The 32-year-old is top class. Some seem to think referring to him as an all-weather jockey is demeaning. That’s probably the intention in some respect but those that dominate the artificial tracks do so because they are tactically superb.

Being in the right position is the key to winning all-weather races around the tight tracks of Lingfield, Kempton and Wolverhampton.

Kirby is almost always in the right position. He was again on Saturday on Adayar and it’s only the beanpole jockey’s weight problems that have stopped him getting one of the really big jobs.

It remains to be seen if Kirby will be in more demand in the biggest Flat races on the back of his Derby success. His talents suggest he should be.

Adayar is sure to have some lofty targets after his impressive four-and-a-half length win at Epsom on Saturday.

His prospects look bright for a number of reasons but they do come with certain caveats.

He might have been given a superb ride by Kirby but there was no fluke in this victory. His draw in stall one was the worst of all on statistics.

He was the first Derby winner since Oath in 1999 to start from the ‘coffin box’. To overcome the poor draw and get a good position needed tactical speed and that bodes well for his future.

It’s hard to see Charlie Appleby dropping this strong stayer, who had the Group 2 Queen’s Vase over 1m6f as a possible Royal Ascot target before Saturday, back in distance so the Irish Derby would be the next natural step.

The ground could hold the key to Adayar’s future performances. A soft surface does seem important to him so it will be interesting to see how his cards are played if we have a hot summer.

It wasn’t just the winner that made the race happy viewing for Appleby and his bosses at Godolphin.

Hurricane Lane ran really well in third. He came into the race having shaped like a stayer when winning York’s Dante Stakes and nothing he did at Epsom to suggest stamina wasn’t his strong suit.

He sat just outside Adayar for much of the race but he didn’t handle the downhill run through Tattenham Corner anywhere near as well. To stay on for third was most promising, especially as he lost his front shoes, and he will surely be a contender for races like the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and York’s Great Voltigeur Stakes but he looks ready-made for the St Leger.

There is also some collateral form that would have pleased the Godolphin team. Derby runner-up Mojo Star had been beaten by Manobo, who was making his debut, in a Newbury maiden last month.

Manobo followed up on Kempton’s all-weather last week and he looks another exciting colt.

Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney appreciated the rain that hit the track on Friday but he didn’t appear to see out the 1m4f trip. The Irish Champion Stakes already looks a suitable long-range target.

Hot favourite Bolshoi Ballet suffered a nasty injury when getting struck into, probably quite early in the race, so he is worthy of another chance. The Irish Derby is an obvious option if his injury is not more than superficial.

The supporting races were a little disappointing this year. Littered with non-runners due to the softened ground, it’s hard to imagine there are many superstars lurking in the form of those contests.

King Frankel was unlucky in the opening handicap having been left in a poor position after rearing in the stalls. He will win decent races when upped in distance.

Duke Of Hazzard wouldn’t have appreciated the rain in the Diomed Stakes. He also ran into the back of the weakening leader when going for a run up the rail at a crucial stage.

Paul and Ollie Cole’s ace has a great record at Goodwood. He might lack the class of some of the Sussex Stakes contenders but he could easily run well at big odds in that Group 1 prize if granted quicker ground.

A day earlier, the Cazoo Oaks was won in devastating fashion by Aidan O’Brien’s Snowfall. Her performance was quite unbelievable and, while the persistent rain that turned the ground helped, to win a Classic by 16 lengths was staggering.

Easy conditions seem important to her but she is totally unexposed over 1m4f and the weight she will receive when taking on the colts will make her dangerous in all the top prizes.

It’s hard to imagine it was a strong Classic – winner aside – although Snowfall’s stablemate Divinely did well to finish third having endured a far from smooth passage.

Earlier on the card, Pyledriver was excellent when fending off favourite Al Aasy in the closing stages of the Coronation Cup.

He had pulled way too hard on his comeback run in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket and that threatened to hold back his progress.

Martin Dwyer rode him much more prominently on Friday and it seemed to do the trick. He has no problem with decent ground and has always had lots of class.

Anyone underestimating him in races like the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes might end up looking a bit foolish.