Sheer Derby delight for Kirby as everything comes right in the end
The multiple Group One-winning rider is not one of the more fashionable members of the weighing room, perhaps because he made his name riding on the all-weather or perhaps because he has endured a career-long battle with his weight.
Imagine then being handed what may be the opportunity of a lifetime by being booked to partner the Ed Dunlop-trained John Leeper in the world’s most famous Flat race – only to lose the ride at the eleventh hour after Frankie Dettori became available.
“You wouldn’t have wanted to have been around me for the first hour,” Kirby admitted.
However, that was not the end of the story for the 32-year-old, with his friend and ally Charlie Appleby stepping in to give him the mount on his apparent third-string Adayar, replacing previously booked champion jockey Oisin Murphy.
The rest, as they say, is history, with the Lingfield Derby Trial runner-up and 16-1 shot – who was not short of support in the market beforehand – finding a gap on the far rail before scooting four and a half lengths clear.
Recalling the events of recent days, Kirby – no stranger to Group One success through his association with Clive Cox – said: “I was asked to ride John Leeper and then five minutes later Charlie rang me to asked me to ride this lad. I said ‘I’m sorry, I’ve just put my name to John Leeper’.
“Mr Dunlop said ‘if you’re going to ride him put your name to him’, and as a man of my word I did
“It’s worked out great that I lost the ride on him!”
He added: “I spoke to Charlie very quickly and I can’t thank him enough – his loyalty is unbelievable.
“When you’re just a run-of-the-mill jockey, being able to ride class horses and get a chance on the big day to deliver, it’s a marvellous feeling.
“Charlie had a champion jockey booked (to ride Adayar), but was kind enough to let me ride him. All credit it to him – he’s a great trainer, a great man and a great father. I will never be able to thank him enough.
“It’s quite unbelievable, really. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. It’s mad, crazy – what goes around comes around.”
Appleby, who saddled the first Derby winner to carry the Godolphin blue in 2018 hero Masar, was keen for most of the praise for his latest success to go to the winning rider.
He said: “Adam is a natural horseman. You can put him on every type of horse. When I was first given the licence, Adam rode winners for us very early on.
“I think if you win an English Derby, you don’t have to call yourself an all-weather jockey, that’s for sure! Adam is far from an all-weather jockey.
“I’m just delighted he’s part of the team and I’m delighted he’s had a winner.”
Kirby hopes his Derby success is proof, if it were needed, that he is just as capable of delivering the goods on a Saturday at Epsom as he is on a Wednesday at Lingfield.
I hope the kids are watching and at least they know when people call daddy an all-weather jockey, I'm not
He added: “I’m really pleased. I’m not really one to get over-excited about things, but I was then (passing the post).
“I hope the kids are watching and at least they know when people call daddy an all-weather jockey, I’m not.
“I’m good on the all-weather because I ride on the all-weather and I ride horses with a chance on the all-weather.
“You can’t win these big races unless you’re in them for starters. It’s great to pick up a ride and then go and win it.
“There was just enough room up the rail, and I thought if I could just get in I could help them make their minds up, so I got in – luckily the horse was brave enough to go through with it and galloped up to the line and out through it.
“It’s a marvellous day. I hope my mother was watching!”
And on the 40th anniversary of the great Shergar’s Derby win, the popular Kirby was also quick to remember the late Walter Swinburn, who was in the saddle that day and went on become a successful trainer before his untimely death at the age of 55.
He said: “He was a top man and a very sad loss. He taught me great things as well and taught me always to be very cool and calm and relaxed about things.
“He was great to ride for and a fantastic man. He had a lovely family and I am sure they will be pleased for me, too.”
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