Harzand gives Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen first Derby success at Epsom
Published 04/06/2016 | 17:36
Harzand overcame a a last-minute scare to provide Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen with their first taste of Investec Derby glory at Epsom.
The handsome colt made a big impression in winning April's Ballysax Stakes in the Leopardstown mud and after a deluge of rain hit the Downs earlier in the week, he was well backed to emulate his brilliant father Sea The Stars, who won the Epsom showpiece seven years ago.
However, there was a late hindrance for his supporters when it emerged Harzand had spread a plate on the journey from Ireland, throwing his participation into doubt.
The 13-2 chance was eventually given the green light, though, and was always travelling powerfully in the middle of the pack.
Smullen launched his challenge early in the straight and while 7-2 favourite US Army Ranger came storming down the middle of the track from a long way back, Harzand was always doing enough and held him off by a length and a half.
Smullen said: "It's a childhood dream to win this race and I've been at it a while now.
"The trouble we had with him this morning, I didn't know if he would get here, but it's a great team effort. I'm delighted for them.
"He's a vastly improving horse and showed his true ability today.
"He found another gear when the second horse came to him."
Winning owner-breeder Aga Khan was claiming the Derby for a fifth time, having previously struck gold with the likes of the legendary Shergar (1981) and most recently Sinndar (2000).
He said: "This is a major gift for everyone that works with me."
Weld has won every Classic in his homeland and numerous big prizes across the globe, but was thrilled to strike gold in the biggest Flat race of them all.
He said: "I won my first Classic here with Blue Wind (1981 Oaks) many moons ago, when I probably didn't have horses like this to win this great race.
"It's wonderful to do it. We had a huge worry this morning as he spread a plate travelling over and he was a very doubtful runner right up to about an hour (before the race).
"But with the tremendous help of all my colleagues and my team, we made it.
"The Irish Derby will probably be his next race. I've always believed in this horse and I entered him in the Arc, so that must be a target."
Aidan O'Brien was responsible for both the runner-up US Army Ranger and the third home Idaho.
He said: "He (US Army Ranger) ran a great race and I'm delighted for Dermot Weld and the Aga Khan.
"He was a bit babyish early on, but we're not making any excuses.
"We'll see how the horse is and we're looking forward to running him again.
"Idaho ran very well in third and I think he'll come forward again, too."