^Diore Lia, not out photo
It was to be the story of the year. In Summer 2017 it was hard to escape the many articles surrounding one particular horse. The story just kept escalating, with people continually hoping the whole thing was finished, only for more articles to be published about the horse.
On May 29th the Derby declarations were released featuring Permian, Eminent and Cracksman. All horses you would expect in a race of this calibre and prestige. There didn’t seem to be any main contenders, but nonetheless almost all of the horses had previous successes that would naturally have seen them entered in the Derby.
Joining them, Diore Lia. Almost immediately alarm bells were raised of the dangers of having such an inexperienced horse in the Derby with 19 other horses. She had never won a race, in her two career starts.
It also raised questions about the Derby itself. Should there be a minimum rating or skill level for horses entered in the Derby? The integrity of the race was being heavily questioned, such as the fact that a maiden would be able to run in a race of such prestige.
A new layer of controversy was added. Diore Lia would be ridden by Gina Mangan, winner of only one race and not nearly as experienced as a rider in the Derby should be. Again people began to wonder if there should be a minimum level of skill jockeys should have before they faced one of the most famous races in the world.
Yet the Diore Lia camp marched on, their horse ready for the Derby, and ready for her prize money to be sent to the Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Eventually the BHA intervened, preventing Gina Mangan from riding in the Derby. This caused uproar, with people saying the horse was a risk and not the jockey. The owner said his horse would not race without Gina Mangan onboard. However, by the 1st of June, apprentice Paddy Pilley had the ride. At the time of the entry he had 34 wins and so was more experienced than Gina Mangan.
And so Diore Lia was all set for the Derby.
Spectators were ready for her to arrive at Epsom on Derby day, and expected her to finish trailing the pack.
And then another story. Diore Lia was a non-runner in the Derby. The reason given by trainer John Jenkins was an injured tendon.
However, owner and breeder Richard Aylward said that the horse had been nobbled, that she had been “given a terrible belt with a piece of wood”. He had accused someone or a group of people of beating his horse.
As any authority would, the BHA looked into the incident but nothing came from it.
So the Derby ran, and outsider Wings Of Eagles won. Many people began saying that if Wings Of Eagles won, Diore Lia would have had a chance to place.
That’s when everyone thought the Diore Lia Saga had finished. The Derby had been run and there would be no further stories on the horse that had changed the face of the Derby forever.
That was the case until September, when Diore Lia’s owner Mary Todd was put on the forfeit list, essentially banning her from all BHA owned premises because she had been put into debt for just under £9,000 for unpaid entry fees. Unsurprisingly Richard Aylward had also been on the forfeit list for unpaid entry fees.
And that was the last that has been heard of Diore Lia for a while. We can only assume that she’s still in training, but the saga of the little filly that didn’t captured the eyes of British racing in Summer 2017 and changed the Derby for years to come.
I think her story epitomises racing in 2017 and we can only hope that she changed the sport for the better.