By Simon Jackson at Epsom.
The Irish Derby is the immediate target for Harzand who overcame a serious late injury scare before winning the Investec Derby at Epsom Downs on Saturday.
Harzand, a son of 2009 Epsom Derby winner Sea The Stars, secured a first victory in the World’s most important race for trainer Dermot Weld and jockey Pat Smullen.
The Aga Khan-owned colt raced in the midfield for the bulk of the unique one and half mile contest before challenging two furlongs out and taking the lead inside the last furlong.
He maintained the advantage to finish a length and a half ahead of Aidan O’Brien runners US Army Ranger and Idaho, who finished a further length and a quarter back in third place.
Weld at a press conference immediately after the race revealed the extent of the injury to Harzand, who had spread a plate on the way to Epsom and was not cleared to run in the Derby until an hour before start time.
“He was pretty unlikely to run today after what happened,” Weld explained to members of the racing press. “This morning, when he came over, he just stood on himself. Racing plates are very light and unfortunately he pulled one off. By doing this, he just drew blood as well so his foot was very sore.
“I’ve got excellent staff and immediately old-fashioned treatment came in. We poulticed him and then, when he got to Epsom this morning, he was very sore. So we treated him again and I was happy then that we’d drawn anything we had wanted to out of the foot.
“We then put him in ice for four hours. He hadn’t damaged the plate. It was clean and hadn’t buckled at all. Jim Reilly, Jim Bolger’s farrier, was able to tack that back on. Jim is a very gifted man and we were lucky to have him here. He tacked the plate back on so delicately and then we put the foot in ice again. The track veterinary was there watching him all the time and we both agreed that he had to pass three tests.
“We took him out then as His Highness [the Aga Khan – owner] was due to leave at 2.20pm to come to Epsom. The shoe was tacked on at 1.55pm and I was happy when he jogged with the track vet and he was perfectly sound. I called His Highness and away he came. We put his foot back in a bucket of ice for the next couple of hours and I stayed with him.
“We came down and saddled him later, which was the next test, and he jogged out perfectly sound. The track vet was also happy. We did it again to be sure and he was fine. The final test was Pat’s call. I told him that if he wasn’t happy with him at the start then he should just pull him out. I watched him go down on the big screen with Pat and he trotted down sound. So here we are – such is life!
“It’s very special to win this race. I think I’ve had 23 Classic winners in Europe. Blue Wind was my first when she won the Oaks many years ago [in 1981]. I’ve won a couple of Irish Derbys [Zagreb in 1996 and Grey Swallow in 2004] but I’ve always obviously wanted to win this race.
“I’ve possibly never had a horse good enough to do it but today was the day. I thought he put in a very good performance when he won his Group race at Leopardstown. He beat a good field that day. He’s a lovely balanced colt and he’s progressive. I just thought when he worked the other day at the Curragh that he was progressing and he just showed a bit more pace. I then thought he would represent us very well.”
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