Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 26 April 2018

Harzand digs deep to complete Derby double

Harzand and Pat Smullen hold off the challenge of Idaho and Ryan Moore to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby yesterday. Photo: Cody Glenn
Harzand and Pat Smullen hold off the challenge of Idaho and Ryan Moore to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby yesterday. Photo: Cody Glenn

Greg Wood

Harzand, the Derby winner at Epsom three weeks ago, emerged victorious from a sustained duel with Idaho to add the Irish Derby to his record by half a length and confirm his status as the season's leading middle-distance three-year-old colt.

Dermot Weld, Harzand's trainer, had suggested last week that winning the Derby had "left a mark" on his colt, a son of the brilliant Sea The Stars.

Harzand did not shrink from the battle, however, as Aidan O'Brien's Idaho, who finished two-and-three-quarter lengths behind him at Epsom, drew alongside a furlong from home under Ryan Moore.

The two colts fought all the way to the line, and it was only in the final half-furlong that Harzand and Pat Smullen found more to edge out Idaho, with Stellar Mass back in third for Jim Bolger's stable and Ed Dunlop's Red Verdon, sixth home at Epsom, next across the line. Harzand was the fifth Derby winner owned by the Aga Khan to line up in the Irish equivalent three weeks later and the fifth to succeed, at odds of 4/6.

"It was a great performance by horse and rider," Weld said. "I thought today's race was an even better race than Epsom.

"The exciting thing about this race was the battle. Both of those horses quickened and picked up brilliantly and both jockeys tried to save that little bit more for the final challenge.

"I thought for a few strides that Idaho was going to beat us, but just in the last week, Harzand's coat had begun to sheen and his blood picture came right. I didn't do much work with him but I knew he had physically improved and Epsom had sharpened him. It was brilliant to watch those two great jockeys riding a finish on two very high-class colts.

"Pat has been a brilliant rider for many, many years. He won [the Irish Derby] on Grey Swallow here for me, and so many races all around Ireland and right across the world. He won the Matriarch for me one day [in California] and totally outrode the top riders in America."

Smullen, winning the race for the second time, felt that Harzand had committed everything to the struggle in the closing stages.

"He's such a great horse, he's got such courage and determination," Smullen said. "Ryan came with one, good, determined run. I needed this horse to dig deep for me and he did. The pressure was on and we pulled it off."

Sinndar, in the same famous green-and-red colours, completed the same Derby double in 2000 and went on to take the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the autumn. Harzand was cut to 8/1 from 10/1 for the Arc by Paddy Power, in a market headed by Postponed, the Coronation Cup winner, at 5/1. Idaho is a 20/1 chance to win at Chantilly on October 3 with the same firm.

Earlier on the card, Medicine Jack denied O'Brien his 13th victory in the Group Two Railway Stakes with a half-length success from Peace Envoy, the 7/4 joint-favourite.

"He did what we thought he could do," Ger Lyons, Medicine Jack's trainer, said. "That's not being cocky, we like him, but you never know when you've Ballydoyle to deal with."

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