Aidan O’Brien’s Capri turned Epsom Derby form on its head to win the Irish version at the Curragh in gutsy fashion.
Ridden prominently throughout by Seamie Heffernan, he was given a perfect toe into the race by stable companion The Anvil, and took the lead entering the final two furlongs. The top three in the market; Cracksman, Wings Of Eagles and Waldgeist, came in unison with a mighty challenge entering the final furlong, but Capri was not for passing, and held on by a neck and a short-head. Gosden’s Cracksman came nearest, with O’Brien’s Derby hero Wings Of Eagles a close third. French challenger Waldgeist was a length further back in fourth.
Back at Epsom, Capri broke poorly, and was being given the ‘hurry-up’ throughout in order to get on terms. And I remain adamant that he is not the quickest, and found himself outpaced on a sounder surface. Though no mud-bath, the ground at the Curragh was certainly running slower than Epsom, and this enabled Heffernan to get a prominent position early, and then use Capri’s guts and stamina to hold off the chasing pack.
The victory brought up a dazzling dozen for O’Brien in the race, and speaking after the success he said: “I was always a great believer in this horse. Even after Epsom, Seamus wanted to come here and ride him. We know that he gets a mile and a half and we know that he's brave. Seamus had a lovely position through the race. I thought Seamus gave him a brilliant ride. What he did wasn't an easy thing to do. The pace was strong up front, and he was sitting right in the eye of the storm.
“It was a masterclass from him, really. Seamus has been a part of our family for over 20 years now. He is an amazing fellow - talented, dedicated, loyal and an unbelievable rider. We feel privileged and delighted to be working with him every day.”
Such comments are typical of the wonderfully humble Aidan O’Brien. Never one to hog the limelight, despite his phenomenal record, he heaps praise on his team, and they so rarely let him down.
Heffernan was winning his third Irish Derby, and said: “We’ve always liked Capri since he won at Galway last year. He’s run well in some very good races. The beautiful ground and the track, which is so different to Epsom, played to his strengths. There was nowhere to hide out there and Capri saw out the trip well.”
Pat Smullen was deputising for Frankie Dettori, and gave a positive report of runner-up Cracksman, when saying: “He ran an excellent race. He got a little bit further back than we had planned but he never really travelled through the race and showed a lot of immaturity still. He's very babyish. It wasn't ideal to have to come around one in the straight but I just wasn't going well enough. To his credit, he got it together and stayed on very well to the line. I thought when I got the better of Wings Of Eagles I had it, but the grey horse battled away well. He's run an excellent race. It's unfortunate he's got beat, but he's a horse that will only keep progressing from here on.”
Yesterday news came that Wings Of Eagles had suffered a career ending injury during the defeat on Saturday. O’Brien had talked of a summer break for the Epsom star, with an autumn return and a likely crack at the Arc. It’s another blow for Ballydoyle, who also have concerns over the chances of Minding returning to the track. After a recent X-ray, she is set for further time on the sidelines, with the season fast passing her by. And yet more sad news came from the camp, with talented filly Somehow having to be put down after suffering a fracture of a hind tibia on the gallops.
Resources at Ballydoyle are bountiful, and the talent on tap is second to none, but this weekend has again proved the fragility of the thoroughbred, and that with every success achieved there’s often anguish lurking around the corner.