Harzand fights hard to win the Irish Derby from runner-up Idaho
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Report: Curragh, Saturday
Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group 1), 1m4f, 3yo
DERBY winner Harzand bagged a second Classic when registering a game success in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh, showcasing a tremendous attitude to fend off the persistent challenge of old rival Idaho.
Harzand had beaten Idaho by two and three-quarter lengths at Epsom but he had to battle to confirm the form as Aidan O’Brien’s colt moved menacingly into contention inside the final couple of furlongs.
Harzand responded gallantly to the urgings of his rider Pat Smullen, however, and prevailed by half a length, justifying his starting price of 4-6.
The dual Classic winner was providing trainer Dermot Weld – who brought up a landmark 4,000 career wins earlier in the week – with a third Irish Derby success, following wins for Zagreb and Grey Swallow.
Harzand carries the colours of the Aga Khan and will now bid to emulate Sinndar by adding the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe crown to his two Derby wins.
Weld said: “A lot of people thought Harzand didn’t have speed but he showed today that he had. He’s a proper horse and the first two picked up and really quickened.
“Pat [Smullen] gave him a great ride. It’s been a very special day. The horse will have a good break now and will be aimed at the Arc.”
Coral and Paddy Power trimmed Harzand to 8-1 to win the Arc, while he is as short as 5-1 and challenging Postponed for favouritism in places.
Good, tough and dependable
Pat Smullen and Dermot Weld have combined to win most of racing’s top prizes on the Flat but one contest that has eluded them so far is the Arc. The rider is hoping that Harzand – who also provided the pair with a first Investec Derby success – will be the horse to change that.
Smullen said: “Ryan made his challenge with one run but my horse found again in the last 150 yards. When they’re as good and tough and dependable as this horse it makes my job much easier.
“There’s no knowing where a horse like this could end up, hopefully he’s an Arc horse.”
How the race was won
Harzand is a strong stayer at the trip and connections ensured that sufficient emphasis was placed on stamina by sending stablemate Ebediyin straight into the lead at a decent pace.
Smullen was happy to settle Harzand in third during the early exchanges but he committed for home on the turn, attempting to draw the sting out of his rivals.
Ryan Moore, who tracked Harzand for much of the race, came with a threatening run on Idaho inside the final couple of furlongs, but the Derby winner found extra in the closing stages to readily hold his main market rival and enhance his reputation even further.
No plans for Idaho
Idaho was unable to provide O’Brien with a remarkable 12th Irish Derby win but the trainer was happy with his horse’s performance.
“He’s run very well, the first two are very good horses,” O’Brien said.
“There’s no plan for Idaho. He’s had a few quick runs and we’ll see how he comes out of this before deciding what we’ll do.”
Red Verdon narrowly failed to reward his connections’ decision to supplement as he missed out on third spot – which would have recouped the supplementary fee – by a short-head. Stellar Mass ran the best race of his career to finish third.
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