Millions of punters across the world duly paid attention to the leading lights of Coolmore stud and the Ballydoyle stable and were rewarded when Australia won the Investec Derby at Epsom, the massively-backed 11-8 favourite never looking like being caught when it hit the front a furlong out.
It was a historic day for O’Brien, whose son Joseph rode the winner. The quietly-spoken Irishman became the first trainer in Derby history to win three consecutive runnings of the world’s greatest Flat race, Australia following Camelot and Master of the World to land the mile-and-a-half Classic.
The son of Derby winner Galileo and Oaks heroine Ouija Board was bred – by Lord Derby, no less – to win the race, and had shown in finishing third in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket last month that stamina and speed might be his forte.
Joseph O’Brien decided to make that speedy stamina count, tucking Australia into a midfield position as rank outsiders Our Channel and Kingfisher cut out the running going up the hill. Hurtling down to Tattenham Corner, O’Brien had Australia in perfect position on the outside, and as they turned into the straight, he followed Andrea Atzeni on the fancied Kingston Hill as he made his bid for glory two furlongs out.
Australia soon overhauled Kingston Hill and went a couple of lengths clear. Atzeni kept his mount in pursuit inside the final furlong, but O’Brien was supremely confident and at the line, Australia was a length-and-a-quarter clear of the gallant Kingston Hill, landing the £783,000 first prize.
The connections of 20-1 shot Romsdal had the satisfaction of seeing their payment to supplement his entry – a cool £75,000 – almost doubled in return for third place which paid £148,000. Owner Princess Haya of Jordan, trainer John Gosden and jockey Richard Hughes made the right call. He has a future.
The rest of the field never really got in a blow.
Aidan O’Brien, who celebrated his fifth success in the Classic, said: “He’s a very special horse with class and speed. There’s a lot of stamina in his pedigree, but everyone saw the speed today. We couldn’t be sure he would get a mile and a half because he has shown himself to be so speedy, but Joseph was going to ride him safe and confidently and that’s what he did.”
Joseph O’Brien said: “I had a grand position and I was going easy coming down the hill. They went a nice even pace and I was cantering all the way. I maybe got there too soon and he had a look. He is the best.”
The ownership of Australia is why Coolmore continues to produce champions. John Magnier leads the show, but his cohorts Michaal Tabor, new arrival Teo Ah Khing of the China Horse Club, and Derrick Smith all bring their expertise to bear. Magnier, Smith and Tabor were notching their fourth consecutive Derby – also a new record – as they had Pour Moi in 2011 before O’Brien’s hat trick.
As for the winner’s name, John Magnier said: “My wife [Sue] does the naming, she’s in charge of that side of things and she’s Australian.”
Teo Ah Khing said: “This is the first time there has been any Chinese representation in the Derby and today’s victory is wonderful for both Coolmore and the China Horse Club.”
The bookmakers were in pain, bless. William Hill alone faces a £5 million payout over Australia who accounted for 60 per cent of all stakes placed on the Derby.
“He’s the worst Derby result we’ve ever seen,” William Hill spokeswoman Kate Miller said.
Earlier, the great French horse Cirrus Des Aigles won the Investec Coronation Cup in very impressive style under jockey Christophe Soumillion, who dismounted after the post as he felt the horse had injured himself. It proved to be just a scare, and hopefully we will see the eight-year-old back on a British track soon.
It was mystifying that Frankie Dettori did not have a ride in the Derby and he promptly showed he has lost none of his touch at Epsom by booting home Richard Hannon’s Baitha Alga in the Investec Woodcote Stakes. There was also a poignant outcome to the first race. Jockey Jimmy Fortune’s wife, Jan, died suddenly from an aneurysm three weeks ago.
Courageously participating in his first major meeting since the tragedy, Fortune had his first winner for a month, riding the Eve Johnson-Houghton-trained What About Carlo to victory in the Investec Out Of The Ordinary Handicap. Sometimes, bravery favours Fortune.