Capri hands Aidan O'Brien glorious 12th Irish Derby win at the Curragh

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Sat 1 Jul 2017

By Geoffrey Riddle

Capri registered a 12th Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby success at the Curragh on Saturday by fending off English raider Cracksman and Epsom hero Wings Of Eagles.   

Sent off a 6-1 shot, the grey was one of five runners for trainer Aidan O'Brien and also one of five representatives of Galileo who won the Classic in 2001.

Where Padraig Beggy had guided Wings Of Eagles to victory in the Derby, he was replaced by Ryan Moore on the 2-1 favourite, which allowed Seamie Heffernan to take the mount on Capri.

Heffernan has always thought a lot of Capri, and after a ground-saving ride on the inside of the nine runners his mount repelled the late thrust of Cracksman and Pat Smullen by a neck. Even the winning jockey admitted the victory, at 6-1, was a surprise.

"I had the ammunition. He's tough and he's been running in good races, so I was confident,” Heffernan said.

"Aidan trains them from race to race, and he trains them to keep improving - usually they do.

"It's a nice surprise."

Aidan O'Brien is the leading trainer in the Irish Derby with 12 wins and was crowned his 20th anniversary of his first success with Desert King. (Racingfotos)

With O'Brien running five, a strong pace was guaranteed and it was The Anvil who set the early gallop for the Coolmore team under Ana O'Brien.

With stablemates Douglas Macarthur and Taj Mahal also in pursuit, along with Capri, they appeared to have lined the race up for Wings Of Eagles turning for home.

However, Moore was pushing along from a fair way out, as was Pat Smullen aboard Cracksman, as they tried to reel Heffernan's mount back in.

Cracksman flew down the outside in the final furlong, with Wings Of Eagles between the two, but Capri, who finished sixth in the Derby at Epsom, dug deep to give Heffernan a third win in the race after Soldier Of Fortune and Frozen Fire in 2007 and 2008.

French raider Waldgeist did not enjoy the best of passages for trainer Andre Fabre and jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot and finished fourth.

"He’s a horse we always liked ever since he won his maiden at Galway," Heffernan added.

"I wanted to be in the first five or six at Epsom but I broke a bit slow and I had no choice but to sit in and I had to go six wide. He was beaten only four lengths there and he turned the tables today.

"It is ten years ago and I was getting pretty hungry." 

O'Brien echoed Heffernan's sentiments and praised the jockey who has worked at Ballydoyle for over 20 years.

"I was always a great believer in this horse. Even after Epsom, Seamus wanted to come here and ride him," he said.

"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. He paced it brilliantly. He had a target there and he knew the field was coming behind him but he timed it to perfection.

"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.

"He had a choice how close he followed it (the pace) or not to follow it, and he knew all the fancied horses were behind him.

"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."

O'Brien was not too disappointed with the effort from Wings Of Eagles, who had been 40-1 at Epsom, but felt he had perhaps been outstayed by the winner.

He added: "He ran very well and came there to go, but maybe a tough mile and a half might be as far as he wants to go - he might have just been outstayed.

"He showed a mile-and-a-quarter pace at Epsom, he came down, sprinted and finished off very quickly.

"He still ran very well - I thought they all ran great."

The race had been billed as a contest that would clear up the three-year-old picture by producing a winner from the strands of the English, Irish and French Derbys. With under two lengths between the first four home that clearly did not take place.

Capri was 16-1 for the St Leger on the morning of the race and is now a best-priced 7-1 with BetVictor to give O’Brien a fifth St Leger victory. The winner is as short as 3-1 with Ladbrokes for the final Classic of the season on September 16.

Hayley O’Connor explained why Ladbrokes were so short.

“We've promoted Capri to the top of the betting for the St Leger in the belief that he'll have even more to offer upped in trip for the final Classic of the season," she said.

Smullen, who was deputising for the injured Frankie Dettori, believes Cracksman can progress again for what was only his fourth racecourse start.

He said: “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.”

With the three-year-old colts appearing to be much of a muchness, the focus for the big autumn campaigns switches to the older brigade and fillies. 

Almanzor, the outstanding three-year-old colt of last season, remains the 6-1 favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on October 1, and Jean-Claude Rouget’s stable flag-bearer is due out next at the end of the month at the Skybet Stakes at York.

Brametot, who edged out Waldegeist to win the Prix du Jockey Club, is the 8-1 second favourite, and Oaks winner Enable and Minding, who is due out soon, are 10-1 and 12-1 respectively.

Highland Reel, who was second to Found at Chantilly last season, is 14-1 with William Hill for the European showpiece. 

Aidan O'Brien's 12 Irish Derby winners: 

Horse Year
Desert King 1997
Galileo 2001
High Chaparral 2002
Dylan Thomas 2006
Soldier Of Fortune 2007
Frozen Fire 2008
Fame And Glory 2009
Cape Blanco 2010
Treasure Beach 2011
Camelot 2012
Australia 2014
Capri  2017

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