He enjoyed two bits of luck – on and off the track. As the field turned for home, he was on the inner and at risk of his race for glory being impeded at a key moment.
Yet, as the fading Gear Up drifted off the running rail, Kirby pounced on the Godolphin-owned and Charlie Appleby-trained colt and the race was over in an instant with outsider Mojo Star second and Hurricane Lane third.
Though the most unfancied of the three Godolphin runners, this was an emphatic victory and, significantly, a first Derby for Adayar’s sire Frankel.
It was also a first Classic for Kirby who, at nearly six feet tall, is not built to be a Flat jockey and who struggles every day to make the weight.
However it is a measure of his horsemanship – he helped to break in Adayar before the horse raced – that he ended up riding the Derby winner at Epsom after becoming renowned for his excellence on the all-weather circuit and Royal Ascot success with his main trainer Clive Cox.
He had originally been booked to ride John Leeper before being ‘jocked off’ by connections when Frankie Dettori became available.
Yet Kirby’s longstanding connection with Appleby meant he was then offered the ride on Adayar – at the expense of reigning two-time champion jockey Oisin Murphy.
It was Murphy who was amongst the first to congratulate Kirby as he returned to the hallowed winners’ enclosure after earlier telling a physiotherapist that he was at the meeting for three average rides.
“I hope my kids are watching, and at least they know when they call Daddy an all-weather jockey, he’s not an all-weather jockey,” he said. Asked about the roller coaster nature of the week, Kirby said: “You wouldn’t have wanted to be around me for the first hour of that night, but then I got over it.
“Luckily, I spoke to Charlie relatively quickly and, like I said, he had his jockey booked and he was a champion jockey (Oisin Murphy) and he was kind enough to let me ride the horse. I can’t thank him enough.”
He then paid a heartfelt tribute to the late jockey Walter Swinburn, who Kirby rode for earlier in his career.
Swinburn rode three Derby winners, headed by the great Shergar 40 years ago.
“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,” said Kirby.
“I wouldn’t say that’s come out in me today, but 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.
“Being described as an all-weather jockey has never really bothered me. I’m good on the all-weather because I ride on the all-weather, and I get horses with chances on the all-weather. You can’t win these big races unless you’re in them, for starters, so it’s great to pick up a ride in the Derby, let alone win it.”
Asked about the physical sacrifices he has to make to be able to ride, he said: “It’s been an absolute privilege to have the extra couple of pounds for the allowance due there to being no sauna, which has made my life a lot easier and a lot less stressful.
“I deal with that kind of stuff in my own way, but I suppose I’d be a bit awkward to live with sometimes – fair play to the missus (Megan Evans). Full credit to her.”
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