Kevin Darley will forever have fond memories of the day he partnered Shamardal to victory in the Dewhurst Stakes.
The son of Giant’s Causeway, whose death at the age of 18 was announced last week, was in training with Mark Johnston during his two-year-old days before going on to race in the Godolphin blue under the care of Saeed bin Suroor.
Joe Fanning was in the saddle for his first two career starts, with Darley taking over at Newmarket on October 16, 2004, with the pair accounting for Aidan O’Brien’s Oratorio by a ready two and a half lengths.
Darley – who was crowned champion jockey in 2000 – remembered: “He was a very athletic horse and wore his heart on his sleeve – he always did his best. His forte was his cruising speed.
“That day at Newmarket they’d had rain and the ground was on the easier side and I’m always an advocate with a two-year-old that if you have a rail to follow, you should use it.
“We discussed it beforehand, we were drawn there and Mark totally agreed we should stay where we were and don’t be afraid to make use of his speed. Thankfully his stamina kicked in where it mattered.
“He was still a lit bit inexperienced at that point as well, early on he was just lugging off the rail a little bit, but when he was off the bridle he was in racing mode, head down and just galloped.
“With a lot of Mark’s horses I didn’t really have a lot to do with them at home, but what I saw of him he’d always do his best for you. He wasn’t one of those horses that kept anything for himself.
“Although I only rode him the once on the racecourse, he was one of those horses that would gallop through a brick wall for you. He was an out-and-out trier.
“Mark knew the score in that any good horses that came along, there was always a danger they would be drafted to Godolphin and he took that on the chin, but I know he was as gutted as me when he left.
“He went on to be a very good stallion as well.”
With racing on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, the future continues to be uncertain for many and no date has been able to be set yet for a resumption of the sport.
Darley said: “I don’t know what the situation is going to be and I’ve mixed feelings about what we should and shouldn’t do, we’ve got to be careful. It would be nice to get racing up and running in some form, but it’s not our decision.
“It’s the unknown – I know we all want dates and targets, but we don’t know.
“They’ve got models they can replicate, it’s happened in Australia for example. I think the thing that would be different here is the travelling, getting the horses to and from the races. It won’t be any different for the lads and lasses, they are looking after them at home and getting them ready anyway.
“I know it’s been said before, but I think stable lads deserve a mention – they are our frontline workers and are doing a great job. They are keeping horses ticking over and doing everything properly.
“Fingers crossed we can get on with life at some stage, but it’s very, very strange at the moment.”