Beggy's unlikely redemption story is stuff of Derby day legend

Beggy's unlikely redemption story is stuff of Derby day legend
By Sportsbeat

04/06/2017 at 03:40Updated

You can find rack and ruin at the races and redemption too, as Padraig Beggy found out at Epsom in a life-affirming story that proves the raw power of perseverance.

Beggy is the very definition of a journeyman jockey but he stepped out the shadows to send 40-1 shot Wings of Eagles soaring to glory in the Investec Derby, the longest priced winner in 43 years.

His career has been unspectacular and probably was destined to be defined by a positive drugs test during his time riding in Australia.

The Kembla Grange barrier trials are staged half a world away and a whole world removed from the top hats and tails of Derby day, a quintessentially British occasion of pomp and circumstance with outfits straight out of Pride and Prejudice.

But it was there, just three years ago, that Beggy returned a positive urine sample that showed traces of cocaine. He tried to talk himself out of trouble, first claiming the irregularity was a result of an anaesthetic used by his dentist and later the ingestion of coca leaves provided by a friend.

They were excuses as implausible as this Derby win was improbable and in the end, with the weight of evidence overwhelming, he admitted taking the drug at a barbecue and was suspended for a year.

His career appeared over and the jockey returned to his native Ireland where Aidan O'Brien gave him a second chance with his Ballydoyle operation, a move that was repaid with extra dividends in a race worth £1.7 million.

Beggy, 31, has ridden just five winners in the last five years and this was only his second ride in Great Britain in that time. There was stunned silence as he crossed the line, with the bookmakers the only ones punching the air with undiluted relief.

But the jockey timed his charge around Tattenham Corner and down the plunging finish to perfection, to come home just ahead of Cliffs of Moher and Cracksman, the top two in the market under the respective charge of jockey superstars Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori.

And while puzzled punters consulted their race cards and scratched they heads, no-one was more shocked than Beggy, who looked scared stiff when an official whispered in his ear that it was 'time to meet the Queen'.

"I've won the Derby and I've got a place in history and I'll be remembered for something good at last," said Beggy, the first race newcomer to win since Michael Barzaloa's victory on Pour Moi in 2011.

"I got into trouble and made a bad mistake and I had to put that behind me. I got knocked down and I had to come back fighting because I know I can ride a horse. I picked myself up and learned my lesson and this proves that good things can happen after bad things.

"I've dreamed about this moment and, to be honest, I'd probably given up on it ever happening.

"Aidan as made this happen for me, he gave me the job when I came back to Ireland. When you sit on one of his horses you've always got a chance, whatever the price is. I knew he was a good horse and lots of the jockeys down at the start said I was the pick in the paddock.

"No words can describe how this feels, it means the world to me and to my family and girlfriend who are watching. I've never experienced anything like it and I could certainly get used to it."

O'Brien has now trained six Derby winners and has won four of the last six editions of the race. He came to Epsom boasting a third of the 18 strong field but it was his supposed weakest link that ultimately proved the strongest.

Epsom's idiosyncratic track, with its undulating rollercoaster cambers, is a true thoroughbred test that has repeatedly exposed the very best.

They said this was a wide open renewal but few expected Wings of Eagles to deliver, with others boasting much stronger claims.

"We always knew he was a nice horse and I couldn't be happier," said O'Brien, who already boasts five British and Irish classic wins this season.

"Paddy is a world-class rider. He's strong, he has a great racing brain and is tactically very aware. I can't tell you how delighted we are to having him working for us."

Legends are made and duly celebrated at Epsom. And as Beggy wrote his name alongside the likes of Piggott, Swinburn and Dettori he also proved that never giving up on a dream doesn't have to be a cliche.

Sportsbeat 2017