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Hornby deeply disappointed as he loses Irish Derby ride on Westover

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Tue 21 Jun 2022
 Westover will have a new jockey in the Irish Derby
Westover will have a new jockey in the Irish Derby

Rob Hornby has admitted he is “deeply disappointed” to lose the ride on Westover in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Saturday but says that he understands why connections have opted to replace him with Colin Keane.

Hornby has ridden the Ralph Beckett-trained Westover in each of his five races and was a fast-finishing third on the Frankel colt in the Derby at Epsom this month. The combination would have been second, at worst, with a clear run behind the impressive Desert Crown, but the jockey has been denied a swift chance to gain some consolation.

The 27-year-old spoke with grace about the situation to Racing TV on Tuesday night, saying he was informed at the weekend he would not be back on board the general 6-4 chance at The Curragh. Owners Juddmonte Farms have said their switch has nothing to do with what occurred at Epsom, insisting their decision is based on three-time Irish champion Keane having much greater experience at The Curragh.

In the past five seasons alone, Keane has ridden 99 winners at The Curragh, including two Classics, from 766 rides. Hornby has ridden at the track just once.

Hornby spoke to Tom Stanley at Newbury, where he was out of luck in three rides, including when beaten a short-head on the Beckett-trained Dandy Alys in the novice event. “I was made aware [of the decision] on Saturday morning. I was actually galloping him that morning," he said. "I also had a sit on him again on Monday and he's in great shape. It’s deeply disappointing for myself, but to have had that that opportunity of riding him in the Derby in the first place was a great privilege.

Hornby speaks with Tom Stanley

“Obviously, Colin has an association with Juddmonte Farms in Ireland and has ridden them lots of notable winners and he's a three-times champion jockey in Ireland. He’s an exceptional talent and a very good rider.

“I've had one ride at The Curragh but Colin knows it like the back of his hand. I'm sure we'll have a chat between us, myself and Colin, just to give an insight on the horse because at the end of the day I'm a team player and we want the best for the horse and for everyone involved.

“Any jockey would be lying if they said they weren't very disappointed and people that know me best will know I am very disappointed. But these things happen. I'm definitely not the first jockey to be taken off a horse, and I won't be the last.”

Hornby added: “I was brought up watching the likes of Workforce, Frankel and Kingman. Wearing those [Juddmonte] colours is a great honour and I'm sure there will be plenty more days to come when, hopefully, I'll be able to ride them winners.

“I wish Westover and the whole team at Kimpton the best of luck because they work so hard and it’s such a big team effort behind the whole process. It's not just one jockey, one trainer, one owner. It's big effort and he’s an extremely exciting horse to look forward to regardless of what happens on Saturday."

Hornby left Epsom dejected, believing a chance of winning the Derby had been within his grasp. But having had time to watch replays and review what happened, he is now more philosophical.

Walk the course at The Curragh: Fran Berry tells Dave Keena what horse and jockey will require on Saturday.

“I was second in the first here [at Newbury] today and when you come in you are frustrated," he said. "You work it out and you process it. Maybe your thoughts initially from getting off the horse are different once you've once you've seen what's gone on.

“I'm human. I was little bit frustrated and he didn't get the rub of the green at Epsom. I think he would have been a second, but it would have been tough to say that he would have won because Desert Crown was extremely impressive and went round there like it was a piece of work. Richard [Kingscote] gave him a beautiful ride. We were a little bit unlucky, but the horse wasn't quick enough at that stage of the race to be able to take the gap that was presented.

“You can see he's a strong stayer who’s got loads of stamina. We've always had a great deal of belief in him. He's in great shape and I'm sure he will run a huge race.”

Meanwhile, Keane rode the final winner of the night at Sligo and told Kevin O'Ryan: "It's a lovely spare ride to get, and unfortnate for Rob. It's not the terms you like to be getting the ride, but it is what it is. I'm very much looking forward to it."

Barry Mahon, general manager of Ireland and European racing for Westover’s owner-breeders Juddmonte, said: “Rob Hornby is an integral part of the team in Ralph Beckett’s, has done a wonderful job with Westover and I thought he gave him a beautiful ride in Epsom.

“Our decision is purely down to Colin’s experience and experience of the Curragh and Curragh Classics. What better man than a three-time Irish champion jockey who has won an Irish 2,000 Guineas and an Irish Oaks at the Curragh to get on board?

“He knows the track inside out and hopefully that will be a help to Westover. We just felt, for this race race anyway, that he’s an able deputy.”

What connections of Westover did not envisage was a curveball from Aidan O’Brien, who revealed on Monday that it was “very possible” that Tuesday would be added to the field to take on the colts.

With her participation now confirmed, the daughter of Galileo, who was placed in the 1000 Guineas and the Irish 1,000 Guineas prior to her narrow defeat of Emily Upjohn at Epsom, will bid to become the first filly to win the Irish Derby since the Frankie Dettori-ridden Balanchine in 1994.

Mahon said: “Westover is good. He did his last bit of work on Monday morning and Ralph and the team were happy, so everything seems set for Saturday.

“I don’t know what way the bookies will chalk it up with Tuesday in the race. She’s a top-class filly who has been placed in two Guineas and won an Oaks and is bred in the purple, so she’s gong to be a formidable opponent, especially with the 3lb allowance.

“I think her inclusion is going to guarantee a very good race.”

Other Curragh races

The Group Two GAIN Railway Stakes heads up Saturday’s supporting card and O'Brien holds another strong hand with Royal Ascot’s Windsor Castle Stakes winner Little Big Bear and Coventry Stakes fourth Blackbeard standing their ground, with Michael O'Callaghan’s Norfolk Stakes third Crispy Cat and John O’Donoghue’s Chesham Stakes runner-up Pearling Path also among the 12 contenders.

There are 13 horses going forward for the ARM Holding International Stakes with last season’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Mac Swiney and Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Helvic Dream, trained by Jim Bolger and Noel Meade respectively, potential rivals for the likes of Gear Up and Patrick Sarsfield from the Joseph O'Brien yard, the Michael Halford-trained Bear Story and Paddy Twomey’s__ Rumbles Of Thunder__.

The Twomey-trained Rosscarbery has been supplemented for the Group One Alwasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes, the feature race on the Curragh’s Sunday card. Unbeaten in four starts this season, she could be joined in the race by her stable companion La Petite Coco.

In opposition might be the recent Longchamp Group One winner Above The Curve, trained by Joseph O'Brien and Aidan O'Brien’s Concert Hall. David Simcock’s Ad Infinitum is one of four potential British challengers along with the Ed Walker-trained Dreamloper, winner of the Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp last time, and two from the William Haggas stable, My Astra and Purplepay.

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