Wednesday 16 October 2019

O'Brien's stars set to tackle Curragh test

Jockey Seamie Heffernan rides Anthony Van Dyck (right) to victory in the Derby at Epsom. Photo: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
Jockey Seamie Heffernan rides Anthony Van Dyck (right) to victory in the Derby at Epsom. Photo: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas Kelly

All roads appear to lead to the Curragh for Aidan O'Brien's premier Epsom Classic protagonists Anthony Van Dyck and Pink Dogwood.

O'Brien has restated that the plan is likely to be for Saturday's Epsom Derby winner to bid for a famous double in the Irish equivalent at the end of this month, while the Oaks runner-up will be ready to take on open-age Group One company in the Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes on June 28.

Anthony Van Dyck's next big date is a day later, O'Brien confirmed, as he provided an update on future plans for several of his Epsom team.

Ballydoyle supplied five of the first six home from their seven contenders in the Derby, as O'Brien took his winning tally in the great race to a record-equalling seven.

Reflecting on Anthony Van Dyck's route to the top, and his hard-fought half-length win from Kevin Prendergast's runner-up Madhmoon, O'Brien confirmed the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby is set to be the next target.

"He ran in all the top two-year-old races, and he finished up and went to America (for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf), so he was very solid mentally and physically," the trainer said. "I think the lads (Coolmore) had it in their head that he would come back to the Curragh if everything went well.

"I haven't spoken to them yet (since), and they'll probably want to see how the horse is over the coming week and then make their plan, but I think that's what they were thinking of at the moment."

The nagging question Anthony Van Dyck answered for O'Brien at Epsom was that he had the necessary stamina, and he therefore remains confident that a drop back in trip at some point will be no issue.

"We thought he would, that a mile-and-a-quarter would be no problem to him," he added. "He's out of a very fast mare, by Galileo, so I suppose the thing we weren't sure about was the mile-and-a-half. But he got it very well."

Pink Dogwood, beaten just a neck by Anapurna in the Oaks on Friday, is in line to drop back to 10 furlongs.

"She seems to be fine, everyone is happy with her," said O'Brien. "We were delighted. She might have a little easy time for a few days, and then she might be trained for the Pretty Polly.

"We're looking forward to going back racing at the Curragh. We're thinking of something like that, but haven't spoken to the lads yet."

Celebrating such a success may not have happened for Seamie Heffernan if he had decided to pursue the route in racing he wanted to go, but it was one he can at long last put on a CV which includes three victories in the Irish equivalent.

Heffernan said: "I've been around plenty of Derby winners, I rode his father (Galileo) in his trial and won it. It means a lot to win it. I'm always confident riding for Aidan. It doesn't matter whether they are favourite or a big price, as he trains them all for the big day.

"I got beaten in this race on a favourite one year, then came out and rode one at 100/1 and finished second. There is no other yard in Ireland where I would have got the chance to go round in the Derby 12 times, so I'm just happy to be taking part on very well-bred horses."

He added of his wait for a winner: "It was only a matter of time. I wasn't going to give up until I at least won one. The Derby is the top race. It is the best, maybe then the Arc, then the Breeders' Cup. I actually wanted to be a jump jockey, so I'm probably lucky I didn't grow!"

Irish Independent

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