Ian Fortune

It has been reported that Thorn Falcon, the wonderful 2021 English Derby champion, has been both retired and rehomed in recent days.

The February ’19 son of Dorotas Wildcat and Hey Delilah, who was bred and reared by his first owner Joe Devlin, commenced his career at Enniscorthy in the Future Champion & Michael Fortune Memorial Unraced Stake in March 2021, winning his opening round heat in fine style before being sold across the water.


It began an incredible rise to superstardom with the powerfully built tracker winning his first five starting in the UK, capturing the KAB Maiden Derby in the process.

Next it was straight into the 2021 Star Sports/ TRC English Derby and he handled the jump in grade with minimum fuss, winning three of the five runs in the classic ahead of taking his place in the decider.


A 7-2 chance at the off, the Patrick Janssens trained star produced the near perfect display to break Irish hearts.

Leading before the corner after a flying start, he pulled clear of his kennel companion Kilara Lion to win by almost four lengths in near record 29.06.

Incredibly, Thorn Falcon won ten times in the UK, all of which came at Towcester. He returned for a crack at this year’s Derby and while the engine was clearly still there, he never seemed to find his trapping boots before making his exit.


In the subsequent month, his owners, the Two Dragons and a Lion Syndicate, consisting of Keith Alsop, Mark Harrison and Chris Osborn have decided to call it a day.

Speaking to the Racing Post, Keith Allsop broke the news, saying, “Thorn Falcon, aka Big Bill, has fulfilled all our dreams and fully deserves a great retirement".

His handler Patrick Janssens also felt the same way. Again, speaking with the Racing Post, Janssens asked, "What more could he do for us, he was brilliant last year when he first won the Maiden Derby and then the Derby itself and he started 2022 off with a bang winning at Towcester on New Years' Day and reaching the Blue Riband final.

"The Derby didn't go to plan this year; the new traps didn't help him as nothing was breaking from six but he had nothing left to prove.

“He's three-and-a-half now and there really wasn't anything to aim him at. Sending him to stud was a possibility but it's such a hard game and, when the chance of homing him came up with some friends of Polly [Smith, Towcester vet] we jumped at the chance. He's settled in brilliantly already.

"It was always my dream to win a Derby and he did it. He was an amazing dog and gave us all memories to last a lifetime."


Indeed, Thorn Falcon did fulfil the dreams of his owner and trainer and he owes them nothing.

There will no doubt be some disappointed breeders who would have loved to use Thorn Falcon as a sire given his immense pace but, when you see some of the videos on social media of the beautiful black enjoying his new home with his new best friend, a golden Labrador, it does warm the heart.

It leaves nothing more to say except have a happy retirement Bill and thanks for the memories.