Sovereign clear of his rivals passing the line at the Curragh
©Healy Racing Photos
This year’s Irish Derby featured the winner, runner-up and fourth placed horses from the 2019 Epsom Derby in the form of Anthony Van Dyck, Madhmoon and Broome and not surprisingly this trio dominated the pre-race build up. Again, the main focus for the 29th June race at the Curragh was Aidan O’Brien’s stable. In this year’s race he saddled five of the eight runners.
O’Brien’s domination of the race is formidable. He trained his first winner of the premier Irish Classic in 1997 when successful with Desert King and won the race a further eleven times before this year’s renewal including seven in a row between 2006 and 2012.
In 2001 the Aidan O’Brien trained Galileo completed the Epsom-Curragh double, a feat Anthony Van Dyck was fancied to emulate, but most remarkable about the 2001 winner has been his prowess as a stallion. All 13 runners in this year’s Epsom Derby and all 8 at the Curragh were his direct descendants.
Shock Derby Winner
Of the five runners from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stables in this year’s race it was assumed that two if not all three of their outsiders would be used to set the pace for their more fancied stablemates. No surprise then when Sovereign went to the front from Norway as the field set out on their 1m4f race across the Curragh plains. However, few in the newly opened Aga Khan Stand would have thought that either of the front two would last the pace. Sovereign had been employed in a similar role in the Epsom Derby four weeks earlier but having been headed early in the home straight there he dropped away to finish 10th of the 13 finishers behind Anthony Van Dyck.
At the Curragh however, Sovereign’s rider Padraig Beggy got his mount relaxed in front and kicked for home off the final bend. Sovereign was well clear of his rivals entering the final quarter mile and kept up the strong gallop to run out a surprise winner. Beggy is not a name that most of the audience watching at the Curragh would be familiar with but just two years ago he caused one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Epsom Derby when he won on Wings of Eagles at 40-1. Here he rode Sovereign, at odds of 33-1 and gained a six-lengths victory, stunning the Curragh crowd into silence.
Only Seamie Heffernan, riding Norway also trained by O’Brien, managed to keep pace with Sovereign and Beggy in the first half of the race but he was sending out distress signals as they straightened for home and eventually had to settle for third place.
The three main contenders Anthony Van Dyck, Madhmoon and Broome which came in first, second and fourth at Epsom were all settled well off the pace. As the two leaders were still well clear turning for home, at a point in the race where there was just over half a mile left to run, the main contenders were struggling to make up any ground.
The 5/4 favourite Anthony Van Dyck stuck to his task well without visibly quickening and took second place inside the final furlong while Madhmoon never contended and finished just over 2 Â½ lengths behind his Epsom conqueror in fourth.
The fact that this was Sovereign’s first success in six starts came as a surprise to many, but Beggy commented after the race that he had felt ‘hopeful’ he would rise to victory on the morning of the Derby.
Many saw this as something of a strange, almost freak victory, and the question now is can Sovereign back it up with a win at the King George at Ascot at the end of July or the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp next weekend. His long-term target is the St Leger over an extra two furlongs which will surely play to his strengths.
The King George is also a possible next target for Anthony Van Dyck and it is certainly too soon to write off the Epsom winner.
Madhmoon will have a mid-season break before stepping back in distance to 1m2f later in the season with the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September the likely target. He is a high class horse and will surely add to his two juvenile victories before the year is out.
Watch For The Future
Of the other runners from Ballydoyle, Broome was particularly disappointing. He never raced with any enthusiasm but was found to be post race normal when examined by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board vets after the race. His run is not in keeping with any of his other efforts this season which include an 8 lengths demolition of Sovereign in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown in April and a narrow defeat in the Epsom Derby. Broome was also narrowly beaten in a Group 1 contest at Longchamp on Arc weekend last year and if he turns up for the big race in Paris on the 6th October it would be no surprise to see him in the money.