Wednesday 16 October 2019

Van Dyck gives O'Brien seventh Derby

Seamie Heffernan riding Anthony Van Dyck to victory in the Investec Derby
Seamie Heffernan riding Anthony Van Dyck to victory in the Investec Derby

Marcus Armytage

Anthony Van Dyck, a 13-2 shot ridden by Ballydoyle's long-serving second jockey Seamus Heffernan, came home late and fast to give Aidan O'Brien a record-equalling seventh Investec Derby victory here yesterday.

Although there was little between them on paper and little between them on the track, the white-faced bay colt was not considered the pick of O'Brien's seven runners, either by the jockey booking or by the punters.

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But he finished off the race best when Heffernan switched him to the inside rail just over a furlong out to outstay his rivals, coming home half a length ahead of a bunch of four horses, three of them stable companions, who were separated by inches.

Only the runner-up, Madhmoon trained by 86-year-old Kevin Prendergast, prevented a clean sweep of the places for Ballydoyle. Japan, Broome and the favourite, Sir Dragonet, were separated by inches in a four-way photo for third, fourth and fifth. Just for good measure, the sixth, Circus Maximus, was also O'Brien's.

Though Heffernan said he was "always confident", that did not look the case to the impartial observer. Anthony Van Dyck never looked to be travelling that well after getting a good start. There were moments when Heffernan had to push him along and, three furlongs out, about five horses swept past, demoting him briefly to 10th.

The race up front was developing between Sir Dragonet, under Ryan Moore, and Madhmoon, under Chris Hayes. The cavalry were coming but, at that stage, Anthony Van Dyck was not one of them.

However, two furlongs out, Heffernan, who had noticed the winners on Friday finishing stronger along the fence, saw a gap back on the rail. He urged the colt to dive for it and, slightly away from the four-way race going on up the middle of the course, he stayed on strongest.

O'Brien, whose seven victories are the equal of the wins achieved by Robert Robson, John Porter and Fred Darling, is a modern training phenomenon and in the next couple of years the outright record will be his, no doubt.

No trainer in living memory has saddled half the field, while Coolmore's go-to sire, Galileo, the sire of Anthony Van Dyck, was either the sire or grandsire of 12 of the 13 runners.

"It's a dream come true to win any of these races," said O'Brien. "They're so tough, that's why we run so many. They're bred and reared and we try to keep them sound for this race." Speaking about the rider he said: "He's a world-class jockey and we were together before we went to Ballydoyle. I can't tell you how delighted I am for him. As a horseman, jockey and a fella, he's second to none."

Heffernan, who originally wanted to be a jump jockey so "it was just as well I never grew up", is a reliable team player. He rode Galileo in his prep race for the 2001 Derby and had been second in the race twice on Fame And Glory in 2009 and At First Sight in 2010. The chances are though that as second jockey at Ballydoyle you are bound to be rewarded by copping a big one every now and again and this was his 30th Group One win.

Instead of the media schooling all young jockeys now get, Heffernan, 46, always gives the impression of having undergone intensive military training to give nothing more away under interrogation than his name, rank and number, although after his greatest victory he eventually warmed up.

"I wouldn't be able to win it if it wasn't for the firm I am with," he explained. "I had to take a pull two out which probably helped as it's hard pushing all the way down the straight. He's a Galileo, so I knew he'd be with me when I needed him.

"I was following Ryan Moore on what I thought was the big danger, but it was a big ask for him on only his third run. My lad danced every dance.

"It means a lot. I'm into the last ten years of my career. I was second on the favourite one year and was second on a 150-1 shot the next, so you never know where they'll finish when Aidan trains them.

"I'm lucky I don't have the choice. If you did and got it right 51 per cent of the time you'd be doing well. There's no other yard in Ireland for whom I could have ridden in 12 Derbys. I'm just glad to be part of it."

The two great home hopes, Telecaster and Bangkok, finished last and second last respectively. According to their jockeys, Telecaster "ran flat", suggesting the race probably came a bit quick after the Dante, while Bangkok failed to handle the track. There may yet be other days for them.


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