Monday 22 January 2018

Heffernan's faith in Capri rewarded

Seamus Heffernan celebrates after winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Capri. Photo: Seb Daly. Photo: Sportsfile
Seamus Heffernan celebrates after winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Capri. Photo: Seb Daly. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

It hardly took place in a venue worthy of a contest Aidan O'Brien hailed afterwards as "the best three-year-old race in Europe" but this was no impediment to a stirring Irish Derby which went the way of Capri at 6/1 at the Curragh.

A tough grey, he ran well at Epsom behind Wings Of Eagles and Cracksman and reversed the form in a superb renewal, holding on by a neck. Seamus Heffernan gave the winner a superb steer, yet when Pat Smullen got the John Gosden-trained Cracksman going in the final two furlongs, Capri had to be brave.

A short head back in third was 2/1 favourite Wings Of Eagles, which seemed to have every chance under Ryan Moore. He failed to prevail but Aidan O'Brien did not in winning the race for the 12th time.

He said: "Seamus always had a lot of faith in the horse. He rode him in Epsom and coming here this is the one he wanted to ride after Epsom. He is a very brave horse, hardy - and it was a proper strong-run race.

"This is the best three-year-old race in Europe, the fairest mile-and-a-half, and if the pace is even there are no excuses at the Curragh. We are so lucky to have it here in Ireland."

Heffernan was winning his third Irish Derby, Galileo his fifth as a stallion, and the veteran rider was his usual cool self afterwards. "Aidan trains them from race to race to keep improving and usually they do," he said.

"This is a nice surprise. I can't wait for the fourth (Derby win) now!"

Gordon Elliott's flirtation with the Flat was not long delivering riches. Whatever the multitude of his achievements with jumpers, to snare the Group Two Railway Stakes with Beckford was quite a feat. The 11/2 chance, which was a straightforward ride for Declan McDonogh, found plenty in a driving finish to repel Verbal Dexterity and 6/4 favourite Murillo.

With John Oxx being light on runners nowadays, this was a pretty significant win for his stable jockey too, and McDonogh's smile told plenty in the post-parade. He did not even mind when the winner had a playful bite of his elbow.

Only Mine, meanwhile, was a neck winner of the Listed Dash Stakes for trainer Joe Murphy and regular rider Gary Carroll at evens favourite.

With such controversy that only 6,000 could fit into an under-renovation Curragh, there was significantly less than that there, with many holders of AIR passes opting not to turn up. "They've done a great job," said Coolmore's John Magnier nevertheless. "If the race were held elsewhere, you wouldn't have had John Gosden and Andre Fabre here."

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