Harzand in full flow under Pat Smullen on his way to Derby glory
PICTURE: Getty Images
By David Baxter 4:38PM 4 JUN 2016
Report: Epsom, Saturday
Investec Derby (Group 1) 1m4f, 3yo colts and fillies
HOURS before the race, Harzand’s participation was in doubt after the colt spread a plate. But with no serious damage sustained, connections rolled the dice, and were rewarded with a Classic victory.
Trainer Dermot Weld and jockey Pat Smullen were left celebrating their first Derby victories as the Aga Khan-owned Harzand held off favourite US Army Ranger, with Idaho taking third.
The first three home were all trained in Ireland, with Wings Of Desire faring best for the home contingent in fourth, but the front three pulled clear.
Smullen could be seen punching the air as he crossed the finish line, and Harzand was not his original intended ride for the race, as he thought he would be aboard Midterm before he was ruled out through injury.
The jockey said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s what dreams are made of, more so for me to ride the winner for the boss – it makes it more fitting. I’m just delighted to ride the winner for him; he’s the world’s best trainer.
“The trouble we had this morning I didn’t think I’d have a ride at all. It’s a whole team effort, I’ve always said it. I sensed Ryan [Moore] coming and could see US Army Ranger’s white face but I knew he would try all the way.
“It’s amazing how this game works. When I got on Midterm I thought he would be my Derby ride but when the rain came for this horse we had to take our chance and he’s just improved so much.”
Weld added: “It’s wonderful. We had a huge worry this morning after he spread a plate and he was still a doubt to run a little over an hour ago. Thankfully with a lot of help we’ve made it.
“He’s a lovely horse and in the race everything went right. Everything went wrong before and I told Pat that if he wasn’t happy on the way to the start to withdraw him. We used hot water and a hot poltice before putting his foot in ice for four hours and then got the shoe back on.”
Benefit of experience
While the well-backed 13-2 chance Harzand was having only his fourth start, that was one more than favourite US Army Ranger, and there were signs of greenness from the 7-2 favourite in the heat of battle.
Moore made his challenge just inside the final furlong once Harzand had hit the front, but his mount did hang down the camber.
However, even if US Army Ranger had stayed completely straight, he would have been hard pressed to get much closer, and was beaten a length-and-a-half. Idaho took third under Seamie Heffernan at 14-1.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien felt US Army Ranger was still lacking experience, as he said: “I thought he behaved very well in the preliminaries but he was a bit babyish early in the race. Ryan felt that as well, but I wouldn’t make any excuses. We’ll see how our horse is but we would definitely be looking forward to our lad running again.
“Idaho also ran very well and I think he’ll come forward, too.”
Pat Smullen shows his delight at winning the Derby on Harzand
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
An hour earlier Postponed had laid down an impressive marker for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when winning the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup, and Harzand joined Roger Varian’s runner at the head of BetVictor’s market at 6-1.
However Coral and Paddy Power offer 10-1 for Harzand to triumph at Longchamp in October.
How the race unfolded
Chester Vase runner-up Port Douglas took the field along at an honest gallop, with Cloth Of Stars and Idaho also prominent.
Ryan Moore was content to sit near the rear of the field, with Frankie Dettori also at the back on Wings Of Desire.
There were some traffic problems for some of the pack round Tattenham Corner, with Ulysses and Shogun coming together on the rail.
In the straight Port Douglas quickly gave way with Cloth Of Stars travelling well before he was collared by Harzand. He in turn was tackled by US Army Ranger but refused to buckle.