By Duane Fonseca

Jockey Adam Kirby had the last laugh after the 2021 running of the Derby at Epsom as Adayar became the second runner to win the English Classic for Godolphin.

Kirby became a surprise winner of the 2400m contest two days after being replaced on another leading contender by Frankie Dettori. Kirby was due to ride the Ed Dunlop schooled John Leeper before Dettori was called up.

And Kirby was thanking his stars after turning up a massive four and a half lengths clear on the Charlie Appleby schooled Frankel colt. While it was Kirby’s first ever Derby success, it turned out to be Appleby’s second after Masar’s triumph in 2018.

Furthermore, Appleby enjoyed a 1-3 as Hurricane Lane ran in third under William Buick, a further three and a quarter lengths behind Richard Hannon’s second placed Mojo Star with David Egan up.

Kirby said: "This is the Derby lads - get in there!"

Mark Johnston’s Gear Up had led the race in the hands of Ben Curtis but, just as the finish came into sight on the making the turn onto the straight, Kirby and Adayar sneaked to the front along the inside to run away with a famous success.

Aidan O’Brien’s pre-race favourite Bolshoi Ballet was unplaced.

On losing the John Leeper ride, Kirby said: “I just thought ‘don’t be bitter, be better’, and it’s worked out great.

“There are ups and downs, there are swings and roundabouts, but I can’t thank Charlie Appleby enough. He is a true gentleman and a great trainer. The Appleby team are second to none.

“I’ve always said I’d rather win a Derby than be champion jockey. I think it’s the greatest race.”

Kirby had replaced champion jockey Oisin Murphy on Adayar after Dettori’s call-up.

He said: “I had no choice.”


Winning trainer Appleby added: “We saw the trials and tribulations in the build-up, but I’m delighted for Adam, it was a fantastic ride.

“It’s something that every jockey wants to achieve and he was hungry for it. Adam probably knows this horse better than most - he broke him in.”


Kirby is no stranger to springing surprises, having ridden the biggest-priced winner in Royal Ascot history when triumphing on 150-1 outsider Nando Parrado last summer.

Four years earlier, he enjoyed a Group One double at the Royal meeting on Profitable and My Dream Boat within 24 hours of his partner Megan giving birth to their son.