Sport

Sunday 20 August 2017

Aidan O'Brien on top at Curragh as Capri shines in Irish Derby

The grey Capri lands a thrilling Irish Derby
The grey Capri lands a thrilling Irish Derby

Aidan O'Brien notched a 12th win in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby as perceived stable second-string Capri claimed the Curragh Classic.

All eyes were on stablemate and 2-1 favourite Wings Of Eagles, who was bidding to complete a Derby double following his Epsom victory last month and was the choice of Ryan Moore.

The John Gosden-trained Cracksman, third at Epsom, was another leading player for Pat Smullen along with Andre Fabre's Waldgeist, but all were trumped by Capri and Seamie Heffernan.

Sent off a 6-1 shot, the grey Galileo colt was one of five runners for O'Brien and after The Anvil had performed the early pacemaking duties, it appeared the race was perfectly lined up for Wings Of Eagles.

However, Capri got first run on them, kicking on around two furlongs from home, and while Cracksman and Wings Of Eagles finished with purpose, Heffernan's game partner won by a neck and a short head respectively.

Capri, who finished sixth in the Derby at Epsom, was giving Heffernan a third win in the race.

The Ballydoyle handler said: "I was always a great believer in this horse. Even after Epsom, Seamus wanted to come here and ride him.

"We know that he gets a mile and a half and we know that he's brave. Seamus had a lovely position through the race.

"I thought Seamus gave him a brilliant ride. He paced it brilliantly. He had a target there and he knew the field was coming behind him but he timed it to perfection."

O'Brien was not too disappointed with the effort from Wings Of Eagles, but felt he had perhaps lacked stamina when it really mattered.

He added: "He ran very well and came there to go, but maybe a tough mile and a half might be as far as he wants to go - he might have just been outstayed.

"He showed a mile-and-a-quarter pace at Epsom, he came down, sprinted and finished off very quickly.

"He still ran very well - I thought they all ran great."

O'Brien praised Heffernan for his role in the triumph, saying: "What he did wasn't an easy thing to do. The pace was strong up front, and he was sitting right in the eye of the storm.

"He had a choice how close he followed it (the pace) or not to follow it, and he knew all the fancied horses were behind him. It was a masterclass from him, really.

"Seamus has been a part of our family for over 20 years now. He is an amazing fellow - talented, dedicated, loyal and an unbelievable rider.

"We feel privileged and delighted to be working with him every day."

On Capri's future, the Ballydoyle handler added: "John (Magnier), Michael (Tabor) and Derrick (Smith) will have a talk about where he goes next.

"We were looking at Highland Reel for the King George and this horse has been busy so he might have a rest and we could think about an autumn campaign for him."

Heffernan said: "This horse has been competing in very good races all year and the Curragh suited him. I was always comfortable in my position and we went a good gallop. He galloped all the way to the line. He stays well and tries hard.

"At Epsom I was planning to be a little bit closer, but being the track it is, I didn't jump and couldn't be that bit closer. I had to move a little bit earlier than ideal and I still ran very well. It's great that he looks like he's improving.

"The Epsom Derby is the clash of the best around and what runs in that race usually split up and win the best races around."

Smullen, who was deputising for the injured Frankie Dettori, believes Cracksman can progress again for what was only his fourth racecourse start.

He said: "He ran an excellent race. He got a little bit further back than we had planned but he never really travelled through the race and showed a lot of immaturity still. He's very babyish.

"It wasn't ideal to have to come around one in the straight but I just wasn't going well enough. To his credit, he got it together and stayed on very well to the line.

"I thought when I got the better of Wings Of Eagles I had it, but the grey horse battled away well.

"He's run an excellent race. It's unfortunate he's got beat, but he's a horse that will only keep progressing from here on."

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