x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Australia day for O’Brien at Epsom

‘We never expected this’, trainer O'Brien says after Princess Haya’s Romsdal third behind runner-up Kingston Hill in one-sided race

Joseph O'Brien riding Australia during The Derby at Epsom. Charlie Crowhurst / Getty Images / June 7, 2014
Joseph O'Brien riding Australia during The Derby at Epsom. Charlie Crowhurst / Getty Images / June 7, 2014

Epsom // The superlatives had already been uttered before he had run here, but Australia lived up to every one as he handed Aidan O’Brien an unprecedented third successive English Derby at its 235th running yesterday.

Australia produced a devastating turn of foot around Tattenham Corner under Joseph O’Brien to effectively settle the issue before he strode purposefully to the line to hold off the limited challenge of Kingston Hill, the only Group 1 winner in the field.

If the proximity of Princess Haya’s outsider Romsdal just over three lengths back in third appears to let down the strength of the form, there was a yawning gap back to Arod, who chased home the subsequent French Derby winner The Grey Gatsby at York last month.

There was no fairy tale first Derby success for Godolphin and Keiren Fallon, who finished seventh on True Story, while Godolphin stablemates Pinzolo and Sudden Wonder were 14th and 15th respectively.

O’Brien has now won 21 British Classics and 41 races at Royal Ascot but he has been unequivocal in his belief that none of those horses that had gone before could hold a candle to his latest stable star.

Australia has raced five times but, after O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stable was ravaged by illness this spring, there is surely more to come from a colt who boasts 2001 Derby winner Galileo as his sire and 2004 English Oaks winner Ouija Board as his dam.

O’Brien is well known for his meticulous planning – he was still tending to Australia in the parade ring as the other 15 runners were already saddled up, and even after watching his son deliver a second Derby after Camelot in 2012 he underlined the difficulty of churning out results at the highest level since he sent out his first Derby runner in 1998.

“We never expected this, all the way along the line,” Aidan O’Brien said.

“There are so many variables and twists and turns along the way that every time it happens I just can’t believe it. I can’t put into words how difficult it is to win the Derby and we are very privileged.”

Silvestre De Sousa set the pace aboard Abdullah Al Manoori’s Our Channel, who was pressed for much of the early stages by Colm O’Donoghue, riding Australia’s stablemate Kingfisher.

O’Brien, the jockey, held up Australia in mid-division and moved up ominously around the bend. After they straightened, he hunted down Andrea Atzeni and Kingston Hill in a matter of strides.

As an illustration of how fast the pace was, Kingfisher was 10th and Our Channel trailed in 13th, although he appeared not to stay.

It looked effortless but, for Teo Ah Khing, a part-owner and the architect who built Meydan Racecourse and the China Horse Club, it was a buzz of the highest order.

“This is the first time there has been any Chinese representation in the Derby,” he said.

“My heart was beating very fast as he came down the straight. This is my first time at Epsom and the atmosphere is electric. It’s all very different and there is a charm to it.”

sports@thenational.ae