Trained by Joseph Patrick O'Brien, Southern Lights only had a maiden win from three outings and finished in sixth place behind fellow Derby runner Bolshoi Ballet in his last race before the Derby.
That took place at Leopardstown on May 9 and while there was real potential for improvement, the Derby came too early in the horse's progression.
Southern Lights' maiden race was the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden on September 17, 2020, at Naas. A seven furlong contest, Southern Lights was ridden by regular jockey Declan McDonogh and was beaten by Deputy Sandy by a head.
The second-place finish was disappointing as pre-race favourite Southern Lights led through much of the race before being pipped at the end.
This was the only race of his two-year-old career, with Southern Lights next popping up in the Leopardstown Annual Members (C & G) Maiden at Leopardstown on April 14.
Going off at 4/1, he made amends for his performance at Naas, winning his maiden race by two-and-three-quarter lengths over Hell Bent. He tracked the leaders throughout the race, making his move two furlongs out and assuming the lead with one furlong to go. He then held on strongly.
His third and final race was the aforementioned Group Three Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes, where he finished in sixth place at a starting price of 8/1. He lost position in the final furlong after battling back from the rear to get in touch with the leaders so McDonogh decided to ease off the reins as a result.
Both of his last two races prior to the Derby were over one mile and two furlongs, so it was considered possible that he could succeed with the step up in trip at Epsom. However, in the end, it just didn't suit and he finished 42 lengths behind the winner, Adayar.
Southern Lights is trained by Joseph Patrick O'Brien, the son of famous trainer Aidan O'Brien.
Joseph was a former Flat jockey who is most famed for riding Camelot to the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and Irish Derby in 2012. This success contributed to him becoming Irish Champion Jockey in the same year, having picked up 87 winners. He retained this title in 2013 with 126 winners.
Declan McDonogh has been Southern Lights' regular jockey, having ridden the horse in all three of his races thus far. Heading into the Derby, he has a win percentage of 11 per cent for 2021, having secured 19 wins from just over 160 outings. He has a similar percentage over the last five years too, having featured in nearly 2,000 races, the vast majority of which in Ireland.
His most recent big success is winning the Vincent O'Brien National Stakes with Thunder Moon last year, which added to his win in 2009 with Kingsfort. He was also the Irish Flat racing Champion Jockey of 2006.
Sea the Stars is regarded as one of the greatest racehorses in history, having won the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the Eclipse Stakes in 2009.
He was the first colt since 1989 to achieve this treble, while he also added the International Stakes, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the same year for good measure. He was rated the best horse in the world in 2009 with a rating of 136, and won a raft of awards too.