Wings Of Eagles caused a huge 40-1 upset in the Investec Derby at Epsom to propel jockey Padraig Beggy into the limelight.
With only two behind him with three furlongs to run, the son of 2011 Derby winner Pour Moi came from the clouds to claim his Aidan O’Brien-trained stablemate Cliffs Of Moher in the dying strides.
The result had looked like going with the form book as Cliffs Of Moher just got the better of the two Frankel colts, Cracksman and Eminent, inside the final furlong.
But that was not taking into account Wings Of Eagles, the apparent Ballydoyle fifth string, who provided O’Brien with a sixth Derby winner.
Beggy, having his first ride in the race, said: “That’s my first ride, but when you’re riding one for Aidan you don’t worry about the price, they always have a chance.
“I had a bit of bad luck in running but probably got there at the right time in the end.”
There was a strong gallop set by The Anvil and carried on by Douglas Macarthur.
Cracksman – the 7-2 favourite – was never too far away under Frankie Dettori for John Gosden, and did well to stay on like he did.
Eminent made his move down the centre of the track in the hands of champion jockey Jim Crowley, with Ryan Moore taking Cliffs Of Moher on his outside.
But just when Cliffs Of Moher looked to have the race in the bag, Wings Of Eagles, who was second to stable companion Venice Beach in the Chester Vase, hit top gear to win by three-quarters of a length.
Cracksman was another neck back in third.
Beggy added: “A furlong down I thought if I get a run I’d win, I knew Ryan had gone, but in fairness to the big horse his best furlong is his last, which makes a big difference. I don’t get to sit on many beasts like this at the races, so I’m going to enjoy it.
“I’d nearly given up on the big days, but Aidan O’Brien has made it happen. It’s happy days.”
O’Brien said: “His lad at home was delighted with him. We thought he was a very nice horse last year, he ran a lovely race at the back-end in France and then ran a lovely race at Chester.
“I couldn’t be happier, and obviously I’m delighted with Cliffs Of Moher but he’s a bit of a baby and his next run will be something to look forward to.
“Paddy is a world-class rider, he has a great mind and is always very aware – I’m delighted for him, I can’t tell you how delighted we are to have him working with us.”
Gosden said of Cracksman: “I think it was a good, solid run. I think Frankie found the horse slightly immature. I think he just ran a little babyish and he could have done with that other run, but I didn’t want to run him on that soft ground [in the Dante].
“He ran a great race, he was just a light on experience at the end but I don’t think he was beaten too far.”
Bookmakers were celebrating Wings Of Eagles’ success. Ladbrokes claimed victory for either Cliffs Of Moher or Cracksman would have led to a “multi-million pound pay-out”, but instead the firm’s Nicola McGeady was able to report: “We are breathing a huge sigh of relief after Wings Of Eagles’ shock victory. There was a multi-million pound swing in the result and luckily it went in our favour, as the winner was completely friendless.”
Coral’s David Stevens said: “This year’s Investec Derby had such an open look to it, there was always the chance of a shock result, and so it proved, with Wings Of Eagles virtually friendless in the market.
“Cracksman won the battle for favouritism with Cliffs Of Moher, and victory for the former or Permian were the results we really didn’t want, but to see the 40-1 shot come home in front in the biggest race of the Flat season was the stuff of dreams for the layers.”
Barry Orr, representing Betfair, said: “It was grim viewing a furlong out with all our significant losers looking set to fight out the finish, so, as you can imagine, there was a huge sigh of relief when Wings Of Eagles swooped high and wide to give us one of the best Derby results in living memory.
“Exchange volumes were strong and Sportsbook turnover compared very favourable to previous years despite the open nature of the race.”
Rupert Adams for William Hill added: “All we needed to do was to get the front two [Cracksman and Cliffs Of Moher] beaten and amazingly that has happened. We will look back on the 2017 Derby as one to remember.”