Robin Hutchison talks to jockey Pat Dobbs ahead of his first ride in the Investec Derby
AS THE son of a construction worker from Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Pat Dobbs knows a thing or two about laying good foundations.
But after building a successful, if unsung, career over the last 20 years he will finally put a stake in the ground this afternoon when he rides in the world’s most famous Flat race for the first time.
Rarely in the limelight and happy to let the horses do the talking, Dobbs is an unassuming type who has never let his employers down.
Officially a freelancer, he has so far ridden 121 winners for the Hannons, where he plays second fiddle to reigning champion jockey Richard Hughes.
Despite being Mr Consistent, he has never won a Group One race, let alone a Classic. But he’ll have everything crossed that record will change come 4.40pm.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to it. It will be nice to ride in the Derby. I haven’t had the chance before so there’s a first time for everything.”
With the weather set fair at Epsom today, 37-year-old Dobbs will be hoping to enjoy an Indian summer 23 years after he was first given the leg up aged 14.
That was at Andrew O’Connor’s yard where he cut his teeth riding ponies, before moving on to Dessie Hughes’ base at the Curragh between the ages of 16 and 19.
His great mate and fellow golf addict Hughes, who he’s been tipped to replace next season, then got him a gig with the Hannons at their Herridge yard in Wiltshire.
Like Dobbs, his mount Moheet has improved with age and, in the opinion of his pilot, has been a little unlucky so far this season.
He was third in the Craven behind stablemate Kool Kompany and the son of 2002 winner High Chaparral could only finish eighth when returning to Newmarket for the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas.
But with a bit more luck, opportunity may have finally knocked, according to Dobbs, who also sees the step up in trip as a huge positive.
He said: “He jumped a bit slow in the Craven but still managed to run into a place.
“Then in the Guineas, Frankie (Dettori) lost an iron as the stalls opened which didn’t exactly help. You can draw a line through that as a result.
“Theoretically, he’s not bred to stay. But I think he will relish the Derby trip - he definitely needs more than a mile now.
“I don’t ride him every day as some people have said, but I know him pretty well – as well as anyone, in fact. He has certainly settled down and matured mentally – that will help a lot.”
While it might be Dobbs’ first ride in the Investec Derby he has plenty of experience of Epsom’s quirky undulations. Not that he’s concerned about them either.
He said: “I’ve always found it quite straight-forward and I think Moheet will as well. You just need to get in a good position coming down the hill. If you don’t it’s hard to make up ground in the straight.
“Moheet travels very well and he’ll be fine at Epsom. It’s a big step up in class for him but I don’t think it will faze him.”
Unsurprisingly, Dobbs sees favourite Golden Horn as his main threat. But he will also have an eye on those carrying the hopes of Coolmore, where Aidan O’Brien is plotting a sixth victory despite ruling out 2,000 Guineas winner Gleneagles earlier this week.
He added: “Golden Horn is the class act in the race. He would certainly be my choice of ride if I was lucky enough to be able to pick from any of them.
“But Aidan’s horses always come on for the run. Hans Holbein and Giovanni Canaletto will both be there or thereabouts.
“After that, if you take out Frankie’s horse it’s pretty wide open. I think my horse is a fair price at the moment. We’ll just have to see how he handles it.”
Having had to bide his time before getting his first chance on the big stage, Dobbs could be forgiven a few nerves ahead of the race.
You may have thought he’d seek a little advice from his trainer or the likes of Dettori, who rode Moheet in both the Craven and Guineas.
But given that Richard Hannon Jnr will be making his Derby debut too, and his father only saddled nine runners in 43 years in the race, the former might be a little thin on the ground.
And, befitting his laid back, quietly confident approach, he has no intention of tapping up the latter in the minutes before they go to post.
He said: “I’m not a great one for advice, to be honest. I just tend to do these things myself.
“I’ve never really been that bothered what people say about my horses or me for that matter.
“I know Moheet like the back of my hand. It’s just a horse race at the end of the day and I’ve ridden in a few of those now. I’ll approach it like any other.
“Hopefully I’ll get him into a nice position and we’ll see how he gets on after that. I’ll be relaxed and so will he, hopefully.”
They say good things come to those who wait. Whether or not Moheet has it in him to make the step up in class – or even get the extended Derby trip – remains to be seen.
But his jockey certainly deserves the belated opportunity to step out of the shadows and into the sunshine on Epsom Downs.
Today’s Investec Derby is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series. For more info go to www.britishchampionsseries.com.