Former Champion Apprentice David Egan hoping to strike Derby gold

David Egan will always have a soft spot for Catterick – it’s where he was crowned champion apprentice on a soggy Saturday afternoon in October 2017 after withstanding a late charge by Kieran Shoemark.

Former champion apprentice David Egan has been booked to ride Gold Maze in the Derby.
Former champion apprentice David Egan has been booked to ride Gold Maze in the Derby.

Yet, less than three years later, the 21-year-old can look forward to a coming of age ride in the Investec Derby tomorrow after being booked to ride Gold Maze for Jessica Harrington, the first lady of Irish racing.

No horse will be stripping fitter for the showpiece Epsom race – Gold Maze was placed in a Group race in Ireland before finishing an eyecatching sixth in last weekend’s Irish Derby.

Yet, while he’s still to win a race for the aptly-named Long Wait Partnership, he’s not being sent to make up the numbers by Harrington who is seeking her first Classic after Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle triumphs at Cheltenham.

It is less than three years since David Egan was crowned champion apprentice at Catterick.

“If you told me when I became champion apprentice that I would be riding in the Derby within a couple of years, I would have taken your hand off,” he told The Yorkshire Post last night.

He also meant it. “I am very excited – I can’t wait,” continued the well-mannered Egan as he drove to Wolverhampton races.

“My agent gave me a call a couple of days ago and said I may have a ride in the Derby.

“A couple of hours later it was confirmed and that’s how it came about.

This is David Egan in winning action at Doncaster last month on Seventh Kingdom.

“I’m over the moon. To get a ride in a Classic is very important and to ride a good horse makes it even nicer.”

They’re also the comments of a level-headed young man, one of five first-time Derby riders in the field, who was very much born to ride.

Egan’s late grandfather Dessie Hughes was a giant of the turf.

As a jockey, he was associated with Champion Hurdle great Monksfield and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Davy Lad before saddling Hardy Eustace to hurdling glory at Cheltenham.

Egan’s mother – Sandra – took over the training reins when the aforementioned Hughes died in 2014, saddling Thunder And Roses to win the Irish Grand National the following year on a tide of raw emotion.

And the young man’s father, John Egan, is still a successful jockey and much respected elder statesman of the weighing room.

If that’s not enough, Egan’s uncle is Richard Hughes who was a former champion jockey before becoming a very successful trainer.

No wonder he will have no shortage of support – or advice – as he studies past Derbies after being drawn widest of all in stall 16.

“They are all very excited and they will be all watching.

“It’s just another normal Saturday for the family,” says Egan, who loves to reminisce about his grandfather’s association with Monksfield, whose rivalry with Peter Easterby’s Night Nurse defined a golden era of hurdling in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was a great horse, a tough horse.

“My grandfather said he was also an entire horse, which was unusual for a hurdler, and went on to become a stallion.

“He certainly talked about that period, and Davy Lad, with pride.

“You can say I was born into the game but I’ve been lucky to have good people around me.”

For this Egan credits, first and foremost, his main trainer Roger Varian for guiding his career and the successful transition from callow apprentice to a senior jockey.

“He’s been very good to me and his support has enabled me to make the next step, but I still have to keep working hard,” added the jockey who is conscious of the need to prove himself as his own man rather than bask in family history.

“It’s great to be racing very day and I’m happy to be back. It’s great to have racing. And a ride in the Derby – that’s the cherry on the cake.”

Sixteen runners have been selected for the Derby, headed by Andrew Balding’s 2000 Guineas hero Kameko, the mount of Oisin Murphy, and Frankie Dettori’s English King.

Winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial, the Bjorn Nielsen-owned runner is a first Derby contender for trainer Ed Walker, who said: “I would not swap him for anything.

“I know that sounds mad with a Guineas winner [Kameko] in the field, but I wouldn’t. I always vowed that I would not run a horse in the Derby if he didn’t deserve his place.

“Anyone who says they don’t think about winning the Derby is surely lying.

“I have been thinking about it since I discovered horse racing when I was 13-years-old.”

David Egan would concur.

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