After all the controversy, Diore Lia lines up for huge task
Unless someone at the BHA manages to dust off an old rule book that prevents Diore Lia from running in the Investec Derby, it will be time for the talking – and there has been plenty of it – to stop.
Rarely does a horse with such little apparent chance generate as much publicity. But this filly's presence in the bumper 19-runner field has made headlines all over the world, and led to an appearance on Sky Sports News on Thursday for representatives of the BHA and Professional Jockeys Association.
To recap, Diore Lia, beaten in two maidens for Jane Chapple-Hyam this year and awarded a measly Racing Post Rating of 52, is running to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, a cause owner-breeder Richard Aylward feels strongly about.
He hoped Melbourne Cup-winning rider Michelle Payne would take the mount, but she was unable to, so connections turned to 25-year-old apprentice Gina Mangan, who works for Diore Lia's new trainer John Jenkins.
The daughter of Yeats left Chapple-Hyam, who did not think she was good enough to run – a sentiment many in the sport agree with, along with bookmakers, who rate her a 1,000-1 chance to win Britain's most prestigious race.
Mangan, with just one winner on her CV and no Epsom experience, was eagerly awaiting her moment alongside Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori in the spotlight, but that dream was cruelly crushed late on Wednesday when it was revealed the BHA would not allow her to ride on safety grounds.
That initially led to Aylward ruling out his runner, but he was to change his mind and Diore Lia was declared with Paddy Pilley – a 19-year-old apprentice the BHA deems experienced enough to take part – on board.
Jenkins, whose Plato's Republic was last of 24 finishers when also a rank outsider in 1994, does not expect to cause a shock and said: "It's the owner's decision and someone would run her if I didn't. He's paid all the fees and is keen to go, and he's set up a charity which will hopefully benefit too."
Aylward, whose fundraising for Great Ormond Street can be boosted at justgiving.com/fundraising/support-diore-lia, added on Friday: "We're looking forward to it and we're going for gold.
"She's an improving horse – we don't know how much she's improved – and we're in it to win it. Everyone is writing us off, but the jockey's instructions are to go for it. Everyone thinks we haven't got a chance, but we'll run a good race and certainly won't be last.
"She's come along every day and her work took off when she went to Jane, who did a wonderful job."
Pilley was understandably thrilled to get the ride and said: "She's running for charity so hopefully they will get lots of donations. I'll be trying to achieve the best possible result. I won't be interfering with anyone, that's for sure.
"I'm excited. It's a great opportunity for a 5lb claimer."
The last apprentice to ride in the Derby was Mark Coumbe, who partnered Castlemorris King to be 12th in 2011.
John Jenkins' only previous runner in the Derby, Plato's Republic, started at 500-1 and finished last. Such 'no-hopers' often do, of course, but they don't all bring up the rear – as this mixed bag underlines...
Noddies Way 2006
Sent off at 500-1 for what, remarkably, was his racecourse debut, the John Panvert-trained horse ran like his price suggested and was beaten 30 lengths by Sir Percy. He was not strictly last as Horatio Nelson sadly suffered a fatal injury.
Portuguese Lil 1996
Alex Greaves became the first woman to ride in the Derby on this 500-1 shot who, according the Racing Post's in-running comment, was "always behind" and finished that way, beaten 35 lengths by Shaamit.
Blue Judge and Blues Traveller 1993
This was the year for Chelsea and Everton fans after this pair finished second and third behind Commander In Chief despite both starting at 150-1.
Clive Brittain never backed down from a challenge and was rewarded when Terimon was second at 500-1. Okay, Nashwan was five lengths clear, but it was no fluke as the son of Bustino won the Juddmonte International two months later.