After Michael Kinane hung up his riding boots at the end of last season having partnered the imperious Sea The Stars to victory at Epsom, there are just two active riders left to share the accolade of most successful Epsom Derby jockey, writes Elliot Slater.
Although he has been through more than his fair share of trials and tribulations in a turbulent and controversial career, there is no doubt that Kieren Fallon is a world class jockey, as his record in the Epsom Derby proves. The Irishman first hit the target when partnering Henry Cecil’s Oath to land the blue riband in 1999, and duly followed up with successive victories in 2003 and 2004 on Kris Kin and North Light respectively, both for trainer Sir Michael Stoute.
For his part Johnny Murtagh has also enjoyed his fair share of ups and downs but in recent years he has been absolutely rock solid since taking over from Fallon as first jockey at Aidan O’Brien’s all-powerful Ballydoyle stables. However, Murtagh has won the Derby for three different trainers. He first won the race aboard Sinndar, for John Oxx and owner/breeder the Aga Khan, before winning for O’Brien on High Chaparral in the 2002 renewal.
In 2005, riding Motivator for the Royal Ascot Racing Club syndicate, Murtagh landed his third and most recent Derby success, on this occasion for trainer Michael Bell. This year he is almost certain to be on board the hot ante-post favourite St Nicholas Abbey, the horse who has dominated the Derby betting odds market since his emphatic victory in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October last year.
Both Keiren Fallon and Johnny Murtagh look certain to be on board leading fancies for the 2010 renewal but can one of them take his winning total to four? The horse race betting would seem to indicate it could happen. However, although it would be an amazing achievement, they would still five behind the legendary Lester Piggott’s nine Derby victories, surely a record that will never be equalled.