County Kildare trainer Dermot Weld won the Investec Derby for the first time at the seventh attempt last Saturday at Epsom, thanks to the colt Harzand who is now 11/8 favourite for the Irish Derby at the Curragh later this month.
The winner, a son of the 2009 Investec Derby winner Sea The Stars, became another breeding triumph for his owner, HH The Aga Khan, who has now won the World’s greatest Flat race no fewer than five times, equalling the record of his grandfather. Yet Harzand did not have the smoothest path to the race, having suffered a sore foot caused by a shoeing problem – that was treated and it did not stop when it mattered.
Harzand, ridden by Pat Smullen, started at 13/2 and beat the 7/2 favourite US Army Ranger by one and a half lengths. In third was 14/1 shot Idaho, who was another length and a quarter behind the runner-up.
The Aga Khan said: “This is a major gift for everybody who works with me in this wonderful activity. To win a fifth Derby for the family is obviously very historic.”
Weld said: “I won my first Classic with Blue Wind (1981 Oaks at Epsom) here many years ago – I probably didn’t have the horses like this to win this great race.”
“We had a huge worry this morning because he spread a plate travelling over and he was a very doubtful runner right up until about an hour ago. With tremendous help from all of my colleagues and my team, we made it.”
Pat Smullen captured his first Investec Derby aboard 13/2 shot Harzand, owned and bred by the Aga Khan and trained by Dermot Weld.
The 39-year-old was having his eighth ride in the premier Classic. His best Investec Derby result prior to this was third place on Casual Conquest in 2008.
Smullen has ridden Harzand, a son of Sea The Stars – himself the Investec Derby winner in 2009 – in all four of his starts. The colt broke his maiden at the second time of asking at Cork on March 26, winning by 16 lengths.
He then won the P W McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown on 10 April.
Smullen and Weld revealed that there had been some doubt as to the colt’s participation in the Investec Derby after he spread a plate [lost a shoe] on the way to the track.
Smullen said: “It’s what you dream of. For the boss to win this race is more fitting and I am delighted to have ridden a winner for him. He is the world’s greatest trainer and the trouble we had this morning – I didn’t know whether I was going to get on the plane or not!”
“The boys have worked absolutely unbelievably to get him [Harzand] here sound and fit. It’s a whole team effort and I am so privileged to be in the position to ride these horses. We all get on really well – there’s a great atmosphere in the yard – and it is a whole team effort. I am delighted for the team.”
“I could sense Ryan [Moore] coming and I spotted the white face of US Army Ranger, but this horse responded for me and I knew that he would get to the line well. The race went perfectly – it was just a little rough early on but I got to follow Idaho into the race and I used him as my target. To be fair, this is a very good horse.”
“It’s amazing, this game. When I got on Midterm, I thought that he was going to be my Epsom Derby horse but this horse improved out of all knowledge. The ease in the ground came at the right time and I am absolutely delighted.”
At Musselburgh on Saturday in the William Hill Scottish Spring Cup Brando has been the subject of good support in the betting (7/1 from 9/1) and should be watched closely for this big sprint.
Yours In Sport!