Apprentice Gina Mangan is determined to make the most of her opportunity on apparent Derby no-hoper Diore Lia, despite the controversy that the filly’s participation in Saturday’s Classic has generated.
The mile-and-a-half race on the idiosyncratic Epsom Downs course is widely regarded as the ultimate test of three-year-old colts and odds of 1000-1 hardly underestimate the chances of the John Jenkins-trained runner.
The last female to score against the boys was Fifinella, way back in 1916. However, it’s her form rather than her sex that has led many to question why the daughter of Yeats should be permitted to run in the race, despite holding an entry for the contest.
The daughter of Yeats beat just one rival home on her debut at Epsom in April when trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam before an improved display on her second start yielded a fifth-place finish. However, she comes into the Derby still a maiden, and one who has been beaten by an aggregate of 44½ official lengths.
Her young apprentice, who has yet to ride around the course, made her only trip to the winners' enclosure in 2009 after guiding Salazar to victory at Roscommon.
However, Mangan, who hails from Dunshaughlin, didn’t have to think twice when offered a ride in the race.
"I know there’s a lot of other young lads and lasses out there that have achieved and accomplished a lot more than me, but I was never going to turn down a Derby ride. That’d be ridiculous," she told Game On listeners on RTÉ 2FM.
Mangan has been acutely aware of the criticism directed at her mount and her connections, but added: "Racing is a sport full of opinion, that’s really what makes it.
"I have my opinion, and without sounding arrogant at all, there’s a difference between hearing things and listening to things."
Ahead of her spin around Epsom’s dramatic undulations and challenging camber, Mangan has also managed to seek out advice from a couple of previous Derby winners.
"I’ve had great help from my jockey coach and also John Reid and Michael Hills have been doing a bit of work with me on simulators," she revealed.
"I’ll be at my best on Saturday and I’m really looking forward to it."
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Regarding her lack of course experience and her filly’s form, she added: "I think it’s a bit of a disadvantage that I haven’t ridden it before.
"For the filly, it’s going to be an uphill battle, but if you’re not in you can’t win."
Diore Lia, who has yet to earn an official handicap mark but who has a Racign Post rating of just 52, clearly can’t win, but her trainer is matching his jockey in weathering the storm of controversy.
"Fair play to Mr Jenkins, he’s not fazed by it at all, either," Mangan said.
"I’ve a lot to thank Mr Jenkins for. When somebody such as your boss has faith in your ability, it helps you with your confidence.
"It’s all systems go. I can’t thank the owner enough for the opportunity, Mary Aylward.
"I’ll never get this opportunity again."
Diore Lia will be expected - and backed - by many to finish last, but Mangan is hoping to pick off at least one of her rivals. A patient ride could see her achieve that - as well as avoiding hampering runners with more realistic chances.
"She’s still improving," she said.
"Epsom will find her out, but we’ll be coming home, we’ll be finishing.
"Why shouldn’t we be hopeful?"