Nowadays, Kevin Darley is best known as the Northern Representative of Qatar Bloodstock and Pearl Bloodstock, which represent the bloodstock interests of the Royal Family of Qatar. Nevertheless, in his younger days, as an apprentice under the tutelage of Reg Hollinshead at Upper Longdon, near Lichfield, Staffordshire, he rode his first winner, Dust Up, at Haydock on his seventeenth birthday in 1977. A year later, as an 18-year-old, Darley became Champion Apprentice with 71 winners.
Hollinshead was famed for his ‘production line’ of future top jockeys and, true to form, in 2000, Darley became the first jockey based in the North of England since Elijah Wheatley in 1905 to win the jockeys’ title. His title-winning season, in which he rode 155 winners in Britain, was not, in fact, the most successful of his 31-year career as a jockey. The following season, 2001, he actually rode 161 winners, from fewer rides than in 2000, but came up just five short of the 166 winners ridden by Kieren Fallon.
Nevertheless, Champion Jockey he was, winning 14 races at Listed or Pattern level on British soil, including the Sprint Cup at Haydock on Pipalong, trained by Tim Easterby, and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Observatory, trained by John Gosden. Other high-profile victories included Bay Of Islands, trained by Dave Morris, in the Northumberland Plate, a.k.a. the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’, at Newcastle – one of the most valuable races of its kind in the world – and Dim Sums, trained by David Barron, in the Two-Year-Old Trophy at Redcar.
Darley was Champion Jockey just once but, when he retired in 2007, he had ridden over 2,500 winners worldwide, including 26 at the highest level, and over a hundred winners in Britain in 11 of the 13 seasons between 1993 and 2005 inclusive.