This year’s Betfred Derby sees three jockeys making their riding debut in the premier Classic – Kieran Shoemark, Rossa Ryan and Dylan Browne McMonagle. 

 According to the betting, it is the 21-year-old Dylan Browne McMonagle that has the best chance of enjoying a successful first Derby mount as he is set to partner the Roger Teal-trained Dancing Gemini, the current 12/1 joint third favourite with race sponsor Betfred.

 Last season Dancing Gemini, a son of 2012 Derby hero Camelot, was successful at Listed level and went close to Classic success on his seasonal reappearance when the half-length runner-up in the Group One Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at Longchamp on May 12th.

 McMonagle is one of many leading Irish jockeys to have successfully come through the ranks of pony racing in Ireland and currently rides primarily for Joseph O’Brien, who partnered the Derby winners Camelot (2012) and Australia (2014) before turning his attention to training. The jockey obtained the ride on Dancing Gemini as the colt’s owner-breeder, David Fish, also has horses with O’Brien.

No time for nerves

Speaking on a Zoom call arranged by QIPCO British Champions Series and The Jockey Club, Co. Donegal-born McMonagle said today: “I am going to be very busy in the build-up to the Derby so I don’t really have the time to be nervous! It’s the best way to be and I’m more looking forward to the race than anything else.

“To have my first ride in the Derby is massive and to be on a horse that has a chance makes it extra special. I am really looking forward to it and I’m sure Roger (Teal, trainer) has the horse in tip-top shape.

“He had a good prep in the French Guineas, when he couldn’t have run much better without winning and just got touched off. We’d be hopeful of a big run in Saturday’s race.

“It was my first time riding him in the French Guineas and it was good to get to know him before the Derby. It was a bit of a slowly run race in France – he’s a horse that travels really well, relaxes and has a good turn of foot. It turned into a bit of a dash for home and he showed a good turn of foot and finished well. He didn’t do much wrong and stepping up in trip should suit. He is bred to stay and all roads lead to Saturday.

“It looks competitive but I wouldn’t swap my horse for anything. I’m on a very good horse with a lot of class and after his run in France in the Guineas and what he has shown us, I think he has as good a chance as anything.”

Preparation is key

Saturday will be the jockey’s first-ever visit to Epsom Downs and he is flying over early on Saturday to be suitably prepared.

He continued: “I’m flying over on Saturday morning and should have plenty of time to walk the track beforehand.

“It will be my first time at Epsom and Dancing Gemini is my first ride there. It’s going to be something different so I’ll walk the track beforehand and figure out what I’m going to do.”

To complete his preparation, he will also be seeking the advice of O’Brien. He continued: “My first memory of the Derby is Camelot winning (in 2012) and it is one of those races I have kept looking back on. It was unbelievable.

“I will have a chat with Joseph beforehand and I am sure he will give me some pointers on the track. There is no better man to talk to and I’m sure he will fill me in on everything I need to know.”

Luck of the draw

At this morning’s draw ceremony, Dancing Gemini was handed stall 15, which as only provided two Derby winners – most recently Sinndar in 2000.

McDonagle said: “It’s probably not ideal but you just have to take what you get given. I’d imagine we’ll take our time from that draw and hopefully get into a nice, relaxed rhythm. I can then hopefully slot into a nice position in the second half of the race.

“This horse is a really good mover and I think he is probably suited by better ground although he has performed well on soft ground before. I think he is very versatile and I don’t think the ground is one of our worries at the moment – I imagine it will be on the slow side of good on Saturday.”

Three jockeys have been successful in the Derby on their first ride in the race this century – Mickael Barzalona (Pour Moi, 2011), Padraig Beggy (Wings Of Eagles, 2017) and Emmet McNamara (Serpentine, 2020).