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Padraig Beggy emerges as unlikely Derby hero on Wings Of Eagles

Sat 3 Jun 2017

Tom Peacock reports on the Derby-winning jockey Padraig Beggy, who few had heard of and was having his first ride in the Classic, and watch Lydia Hislop's interview with the Derby-winning rider.

By Tom Peacock at Epsom

No sooner had Wings Of Eagles flashed past the post to cause a 40-1 upset in the Investec Derby, the question was being asked who on earth his jockey was.

Padraig Beggy is certainly no fly-by-night success as he is already 31 years old, but there have been very few lesser-known heroes of the Epsom Classic in recent memory.

Indeed, this was only his fourth winner anywhere since he returned to Ireland at the start of 2015. While he once landed the Ulster Derby, a valuable handicap at Down Royal, this was his very first ride in the rather more prestigious version.

Beggy is a confident, lively talker from Dunboyne in County Meath who only first sat on a horse when he was 14. His debut winner came at Naas in 2003 and his best domestic total in Ireland was 22 in 2010.

This was followed by a couple of seasons in Britain, first being mainly supported by John Quinn in Yorkshire, and then Wales-based David Evans.

His background is “not really in horseracing”. He explained: “I got into racing watching Fairyhouse and the Irish National, that was only down the road from where I lived when I was younger.

“At 16, 17, school wasn’t my thing and I remember Kieren Fallon winning the Guineas on Golan (in 2001). I said ‘I want to do that’. I went to apprentice school and I was with Kevin Prendergast. Ireland is very hard if you don’t ride for the big trainers. I went abroad but I’m happy I came home now!”

This tangent ‘abroad’ brought about the most controversial moment of Beggy’s career in October 2014.

In what was proving quite a fruitful stint in Australia, bringing about 30 winners, he was given a year’s suspension when a urine sample given after riding in a barrier trial (practice) race at Kembla Grange near Sydney tested positive for cocaine.

Beggy’s punishment was exacerbated because he gave false evidence about his whereabouts and of how the drug had got into his system before later admitting he had taken it at a barbecue.

“I got into a bit of trouble in Australia, I made a bad mistake, something I had to put behind me,” he admitted in the Derby press conference. “I was knocked down then, I had to pick myself up.

“I was flying out there - I was riding winners for Chris Waller, I was riding winners for Bart Cummings. It was a silly mistake."

This came via a lifeline from Aidan O’Brien’s lucrative Ballydoyle operation. Skilled riders are in demand for riding the Coolmore blue-bloods on the gallops, as well as the occasional racecourse opportunity. His 66 mounts in Ireland last year came from a variety of trainers.

The connection brought about his first Group winner aboard Hydrangea in the 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in April.

“Three years ago I came home and two of my friends, Michael Hussey and Chris Geoghegan, got me the job,” he explained. “I came home at Christmas, started in early January. Aidan is a very fair man and (his son) Joseph has started training, they’ve been putting me on them. You ride all the horses, some you like, some you don’t, but you like the majority!”

“I’ve put in a good bit of work and to get a success like this makes me very happy. It shows that if you work hard, you will get the opportunities.”

O’Brien was effusive in his praise of the jockey. “Padraig is a brilliant rider,” he said. “He is a world-class rider and always has been. He has done an awful lot of work with (O’Brien’s jockey son) Donnacha.

“He is strong with a great mind, tactically very aware. I can’t tell you how delighted we are to have him working with us and having him there on those big days.”

 

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