Leger plan for Derby hero Harzand
Trainer Dermot Weld is considering a tilt at the historic Classic on 10 September after the son of Sea The Stars dazzled at Epsom with a length-and-a-half defeat of US Army Ranger.
Harzand’s next assignment is likely to be at the Curragh for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on 25 June, but Weld, typically, is already playing the long game.
He said: “Time will reveal all. He’s a lovely colt and he could be an ideal English Leger horse or, indeed, if it was a wet autumn a lovely horse for the Arc.”
The Rosewell House trainer admitted he needed to add a Derby winner to his glittering CV. Weld has broken down barriers across the world with landmark victories in Australia and America, but he had never won the blue riband event at Epsom.
That all changed on Saturday when Pat Smullen partnered the 13-2 chance to a famous victory, despite the colt suffering an injury scare on the way over.
“Life is an amazing thing,” said the trainer.
“Every day you value it you live but we had a very stressful, very exciting day.
“It all started when he pulled his shoe off at Dublin airport.
“I told Pat [Smullen, jockey] at the start if he wasn’t happy to say so, it didn’t matter to me if it was a maiden or a Derby.
“It was a long old day, with four hours of ice, but with the help of colleagues we saved the day. I think I had to put the Derby on my CV.”
Weld was quick to highlight Harzand’s appetite for a battle en route to claiming the richest race ever staged in Britain. “He’s a lovely, improving colt and I think the quality and courage came out,” said the trainer.
“He’s a very tough horse. When the challenge went down and the die was cast, that [toughness] is what won the day.”
Smullen toasted his “greatest day in racing” after adding the world’s premier Classic to his impressive list of achievements.
The eight-times Irish champion jockey has enjoyed numerous big-race victories, including the 2,000 Guineas on Refuse To Bend in 2003 and eight Classics in his native Ireland. “When you start out and dream of being a jockey as a child, it [the Derby] is something special,” Smullen told At The Races.
“You need everything to go right to win a race like the Epsom Derby.
“It was my greatest day in racing.”
Harzand could soon face a rematch with the four horses that followed him home in the Derby – with US Army Ranger, Idaho, Wings Of Desire and Humphrey Bogart all in contention for the Curragh Classic.
Meanwhile, Almanzor sprang a 20-1 surprise to give trainer Jean-Claude Rouget his second win in the French Derby at Chantilly yesterday.
Successful with Le Havre in 2009, Rouget sent out the son of Wootton Bassett to take the Classic by a length and a half.
Rouget also saddled leading fancy Mekhtaal, but he could never get near enough to challenge after being last turning for home.
Jean-Bernard Eyquem, winning the race for the first time, brought Almanzor through with a well-timed challenge after Harry Dunlop’s Robin Of Navan had made most of the running.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Bravery flattered briefly, while Andre Fabre’s Talismanic, wearing the Godolphin colours, had every chance.
Zarak came with a late rattle to claim second spot, with Dicton also putting in good late work to take third place, another length and three-quarters away.
The John Gosden-trained Foundation, sent off the 4-1 favourite, was a big disappointment and finished well beaten.
The Roger Charlton-trained Imperial Aviator, who was supplemented by connections, also failed to live up to expectations.
Almanzor was given quotes of around 16-1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Rouget said: “He is improving, and I had no doubts at all about the trip or his condition coming into the race.”