Wednesday 17 January 2018

Australia flies flag for jubilant O'Briens

All roads lead to Longchamp for Derby winner that lived up to hype

Joseph and Aidan O'Brien with the Derby trophy after Australia's victory in the Derby at Epsom. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire
Joseph and Aidan O'Brien with the Derby trophy after Australia's victory in the Derby at Epsom. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Australia vindicated months of rhetoric by storming to a spectacular victory in the Epsom Derby on Saturday. And in securing a fifth Derby triumph for Aidan O'Brien and an unprecedented third in a row for the Ballydoyle genius 13 years after his sire Galileo delivered the first, the horse walked the walk.

Only time will tell if he can fully live up to O'Brien's autumn assertion that he is the best he has trained, but, at this stage, he looks as good a Derby winner as he has had.

There is ample evidence to conclude that Camelot and Ruler Of The World won poor editions of the prestigious Group One.

Galileo and High Chaparral obviously went on to scale stratospheric heights and whether or not Australia can emulate their incredible feats will define his legacy.

However, would Galileo or High Chaparral have gone as close in such an exceptional 2,000 Guineas as Australia did at this stage in their respective careers? Probably not.

Pace is a word that the O'Briens and anyone associated with Coolmore are particularly fond of, but Australia really does have plenty of it.

While comparing generations is a pretty inane exercise, given what we witnessed on Saturday, O'Brien's bold pre-race comments demand scrutiny.

We have often noted how his "best ever" declarations in relation to the likes of Camelot and So You Think have undermined his greatest champions, but those statements usually came following a big win. He has been talking up Australia since September's Group Three success at Leopardstown.


O'Brien says the Irish Derby might be next if the ground is suitable, but it is races like the Eclipse, the International, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc that will tell us how good this fellow is.

Some have said in the aftermath of Saturday's performance that Australia might be better over 10 furlongs or a mile on the basis that he didn't pull away from Kingston Hill, but that holds no water.

As the likes of Kingman, Shifting Power and The Grey Gatsby had already showed in the weeks since the Guineas, this is a proper bunch of three-year-olds, and Kingston Hill is bang up there with them.

He ran away with the leading Group One juvenile Derby trial at Doncaster in the autumn, ran far better than many felt he did in the Guineas and improved for the longer trip on Saturday.

Kingston Hill is a quality horse that Australia did well to put away so decisively, while they had the rest nicely strung out behind.

For Australia, all roads will surely now lead back from Longchamp in October, which would be another invaluable international opportunity to build on the potential of an emerging Chinese link that his co-owner Teo Ah Khing spearheads.

Of course, Australia was bred to win the Derby, and duly cost a princely sum upwards of £550,000 guineas as a yearling.

After the recent flop of the similarly regally-bred £2.6m colt Hydrogen, the game's superpowers will be comforted to know that pedigrees and price tags still count for something.

His win was also yet another resounding vindication of the brilliance of both his trainer and his 21-year-old jockey, whose 22nd Group One came aboard the 18th Irish-trained Derby victor.

We know by now how utterly unflappable the champion jockey is on the grandest of stages and this was another example of his remarkable calm.

Sure, he was on the best horse, but he kept things beautifully simple, which is often the hardest thing to do amid the glare of intense expectation.

His father, meanwhile, has endured a frustrating season. The horses have struggled to shake off the effects of an early cough and remain erratic in their efforts, yet O'Brien again produced Australia in mint condition to plunder a second Classic of the year for the elite firm. He really is some man.


APART from Australia's brilliant triumph, the two days at Epsom proved quite disappointing for the raiders, with Tarfasha's second in the Oaks the only other positive result.

Dermot Weld's filly ran a gallant race, though she might drop to 10 furlongs now rather than take on her fellow Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned conqueror Taghrooda in the Darley Irish Oaks.

Weld's Fascinating Rock fared less well when eighth after enduring a rough passage in the Derby, though that still constituted the best of the other cross-channel contenders, with John Oxx's Ebanoran ninth.

As was the case with Kingfisher (10th) and Orchestra (12th), neither looked good enough to land a blow.

Geoffrey Chaucer trailed in last after reportedly losing his action.

Weld said that Fascinating Rock may have a tilt at the Irish Derby next, while Roger Varian is also considering sending Kingston Hill for a potential rematch with Australia.

John Gosden could try for his fifth St Leger with Romsdal after Richard Hughes' mount justified its supplementary fee, while Peter Chapple-Hyam also has an autumn campaign in mind for the fourth home Arod.


The wait for the next American Triple Crown winner will extend to at least 37 years after California Chrome failed to add Saturday night's Belmont Stakes to his list of devastating triumphs in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Evidence subsequently emerged to show that his heel had been stood on as they left the stalls and his rider Victor Espinoza didn't cover himself in glory by moving him off the box seat on the fence to the wide outside before they swung for home.

In the circumstances, he ran a gallant race to dead-heat fourth, just a couple of lengths behind the winner, Tonalist.

Tonalist had skipped the first two Group Ones, a point that prompted a sour turn in the rags-to-riches tale when a microphone was put in front of California Chrome's owner Steve Coburn.

"If you can't make enough points to get in the Kentucky Derby, you can't run in the other two races," the Stetson-wearing Coburn boomed as his wife tried in vain to help him retain some dignity.

"It says Triple Crown. It's all or nothing. This is the coward's way out – if you've got a horse, run him in all three."

The 61-year-old refused to back down on ESPN yesterday morning, when his comments descended from merely those of a bitter sore loser to being downright offensive.


there was no joy for the travelling contingent in France yesterday, with Paul Nicholls' Zarkandar faring best when third in the French Champion Hurdle behind the seven-length winner Gemix.

Willie Mullins' Diakali started favourite for the Grade One under Ruby Walsh but failed to see out the three-mile trip in fourth. However, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the champion trainer as Gemix (3/1) paid a fine compliment to Mullins' Un De Sceaux, which beat him twice in the spring.

On a busy weekend for the French, Corine Barande-Barbe yesterday revealed that she hoped Cirrus Des Aigles would be fit to race again in the autumn after he pulled up lame after his third successive Group One win in Saturday's Coronation Cup.

Meanwhile, 22-year-old Lyon-born Mickael Barzalona is to leave Newmarket to return home.

Despite the disintegration of his relationship with Sheikh Mohammed, a statement released yesterday by the 2011 Derby-winning rider – famous for his premature celebrations – suggested he would continue his association with Godolphin, one which has seen him increasingly marginalised.


Ronan WhelaN continued his recent resurgence with a double aboard Earth Drummer and Maggie Dalton at Limerick on Saturday.

The 21-year-old former champion apprentice rode out his claim on Earth Drummer, while in between Ana O'Brien ensured that her elder brother Joseph would have to share the household plaudits when driving James Nash's Pixie Spirit to victory.

O'Brien, who was sporting the colours of Batty and Mary Hayes that were made famous by the 2006 Champion Chase hero Newmill, only turned 18 last week. She and reigning champion apprentice Connor King are both back in Leaving Certificate Exam halls this morning.


Followers of my selections enjoyed another profitable weekend's racing, with Caspian Prince and Australia, two of three recommendations in my Saturday column, obliging at 9/1 and 11/8 respectively at Epsom.

At Limerick that evening, Money Spider (5/1) and Danequest (7/2) also obliged, while 12/1 shot Dragon Fei spearheaded a massive 888/1 quartet at The Curragh yesterday, with Urban Moon (5/1), nap System Overload (11/10) and Gypsy King (10/11) the other three of his nominations to oblige.

Had Gypsy King not dead-heated in the last, the cumulative odds would have been all of 1,777/1.


101 - Gordon Elliott became the first trainer to saddle 100 winners at Perth when Snoqualmie Chief (3/1) scooted in yesterday, before the same duo doubled up with Vasco Du Mee (4/5).

Stuart Crawford, who had combined with Richard Johnson to complete a brace at Hexham on Saturday, also teamed up successfully with the perennial championship runner-up when Royale Django (13/2) led on the line to deny Elliott's Ningbo Express.

Tweet of the weekend

Oisin Murphy(@oisdacm) - "Thanks very much for all the messages, delighted with Red Galileo's run in the Derby and great to get 2 more winners on the board."

Teenage riding sensation Oisin Murphy acknowledges all the support after steering Ed Dunlop's 100/1 shot into a memorable fifth in the Classic. The Killarney-born 18-year-old went on to win the following handicap aboard Miss Marjurie for Cork native Denis Coakley, before doubling his tally for the day on Daylight for his boss Andrew Balding at Lingfield, leaving him eight short of riding out his claim.

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