Dettori full of praise for Derby hero Kirby

Frankie Dettori celebrates his runaway victory on Snowfall in the Oaks at Epsom
Image: Frankie Dettori celebrates his runaway victory on Snowfall in the Oaks at Epsom

Frankie Dettori was delighted to receive Derby-winning jockey Adam Kirby's thanks for his part in the unlikely sequence of events which resulted in Epsom glory on Adayar.

Kirby, who stormed to a four-and-a-half-length victory on the apparent Godolphin third-string, began Cazoo Derby week planning his challenge instead on the well-touted John Leeper.

He lost that ride to Dettori, however, after Aidan O'Brien decided to field just one of his six possible challengers for Saturday's Classic - leaving stable jockey Ryan Moore to partner the ultimately unplaced favourite Bolshoi Ballet, and the Italian newly available.

John Leeper's owner responded by swiftly snapping up Dettori. But Kirby was not left without a Derby mount for long as Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby updated his bookings by switching him to Adayar, in place of dual champion jockey Oisin Murphy.

Adayar was the least-fancied of Appleby's three contenders but proved the best of his generation at Epsom, becoming the first this century to win the great race from stall one - and ending an incredible week for Kirby on an undoubted career high with his first Classic at the age of 32.

As Dettori reflected on contrasting fortunes, having himself been beaten more than 20 lengths into ninth on John Leeper, he described the "great story" of the 2021 Derby.

Asked about the aftermath of Kirby and Adayar's victory, on Racing TV's Luck On Sunday, Dettori said: "He thanked me for taking him off John Leeper.

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"I was partly responsible for him winning the Derby."

Kirby spoke with an admirable combination of clarity and emotion following the race, having admitted beforehand that the disappointment of being taken off John Leeper had briefly been hard to take.

Dettori added: "Adam was shell-shocked yesterday. It was great to see his big smile, and I thought his interview was amazing…it nearly had me in tears.

"The Derby was run at a good pace, and the best won on the day.

"Adam gave him a fantastic ride - and the further they were going, the further away Adam was going.

"It's a great story, great for Charlie, Godolphin, for everybody. I thought he was a good Derby winner."

Dettori is confident John Leeper will have many better days ahead - but, in the immediate term at least, over a shorter trip.

"He's quite a free-running sort, so I spent most of the race trying to get him settled," he said.

"So I advised to bring him back to a mile and a quarter. He's a good horse, but he wasn't ready for this kind of test at the moment.

"It was very plain and obvious that he didn't get home at all."

Epsom's two-day meeting was nonetheless another memorable success for Dettori, who broke new ground at the age of 50 by steering O'Brien's Snowfall to Oaks victory on Friday by a record-breaking margin of 16 lengths.

It was also his 21st win in a British Classic, equalling the historic achievement of Fred Archer - dating back 135 years.

"I'm very proud of it, of course - 30 years of being in the sport, and it's a big number," added Dettori.

"Snowfall was breathtaking. It goes without saying they went too fast the first bit.

"She travelled at ease, enjoyed the ground - and had everything beat at the three (furlong pole). It is very unusual for a Classic - they're very hard to win, (but) I had the race won at Tattenham Corner.

"When I got on the fence she took off. I could probably have squeezed another couple of lengths out of her if I'd pushed her out. It was an amazing performance."

Dettori envisages an ambitious plan for Snowfall to try to follow in the hoofprints of Enable, whom he famously rode to Oaks success in 2017 and then victories against colts and her elders as a three-year-old - culminating in the first of her Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe wins.

He said: "I spoke to Aidan about it and I said 'with all the allowances she will get in the future she will be very hard to beat'.

"Enable did it for three years in a row. Snowfall is just starting - but when you have a filly of this calibre you've got to go for the big races.

"I'm sure they're going to make a huge plan, and it goes without saying that the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the season - with the fillies' allowance - will be a prime target."

Before then, Dettori will focus next on his "favourite week" of the year, at Royal Ascot - including a string of prospective big-race chances for John and Thady Gosden, and American trainer Wesley Ward.

"In an hour's time, I' going to ride (Commonwealth Cup favourite) Campanelle (work) for Wesley," he said on Sunday morning.

"So already, we're gearing up to Royal Ascot.

"We'll have a pretty big team for John Gosden. The only thing left to fill in is all those handicaps - but we'll tackle them when we get the entries.

"Royal Ascot is my favourite week. I love it - it's why we work so hard every morning, to get horses to Ascot

"Now the Derby and Oaks are gone, it's full steam ahead for the Royal meeting."

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