Anthony Van Dyke with Seamus Heffernan wins the Epsom Derby
Irish dominance in the world’s biggest races has happened quite a lot in recent years. In 2016, we had the 1-2-3 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup while just two months ago, Tiger Roll led home an Irish 1-2-3 in the Grand National.
Well last Saturday, not only did we have the first three home in the Epsom Derby but in fact, the first six horses past the winning post were all Irish-trained. Quite an achievement.
Just three quarters of a length separated the first five horses in the end with Anthony Van Dyke following in the hoof prints of High Rise in winning Flat racing’s most prestigious race having won the Lingfield Derby Trial.
In truth though, any of the first five horses home could have won so you’d have thought the future is bright for every one of them. But where will they go next and which will turn out to be the best of the lot come the end of the season?
The obvious place to go for last Saturday’s winner is the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. The Curragh Classic is where Aidan O‘Brien has sent all of his Derby winners in the past, with four of those completing the double.
That race is sure to tell is just how good Anthony Van Dyke is and whether or not there was anything fortunate about last Saturday’s win.
After that, he has plenty of options but one thing which stood out on Saturday was that Anthony Van Dyke has plenty of stamina, as he showed at Lingfield. So, the St Leger at Doncaster might be his perfect end of season target. It’s a race in which O’Brien ran his 2012 Derby hero Camelot in and Anthony Van Dyke appears to be a horse which has all the attributes to win the final British Classic of the season.
We learned from Epsom that no horse ran the final furlong faster than Anthony Van Dyke. So, it’s that Classic which could already be what O’Brien is planning for his latest Derby winner.
The only non Ballydoyle-trained horse from the first six finishers last Saturday was Madhmoon and if there was an unlucky loser on Saturday, then he was the horse.
Not getting the clearest of passages through probably cost him ground and there are reasons to suggest that if the race was run again, he might just have won.
The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby is surely on his radar now but what the splits on Saturday showed is that Madhmoon decelerated in the final furlong. He was one second slower in the last furlong than the previous furlong, which equates to about five lengths.
Yes, he stayed the trip fine but he didn’t gallop to the line as well as some of his rivals. To me, that says that the Irish Champion Stakes might be his best chance of landing a major race this season.
The 1m2f around Leopardstown could be right up his street and his two career wins have both come at that track.
Heading into last Saturday’s Classic, I felt that if Japan could run well then he would be hitting his peak when the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby came around. He ran a blinder.
The vibes heading into the Dante were that he was badly in need of the run and based on that, last Saturday might have come slightly too soon as well. To me, he’s got the Irish Derby written all over him.
Broome was another which ran a fine race without any excuses. Like Madhmoon, he looked like he didn’t quite stay the Derby trip as well as some of the others so something like the Juddmonte International might be up his street.
O’Brien won the York contest with Rip Van Winkle, a horse which also didn’t quite see out the distance of the Derby.
Then there’s Sir Dragonet. What do we make of his run?
Well, for starters, he ran a fine race on just his third racecourse appearance. While he didn’t finish in the placings despite leading at one stage in the closing stages, it wasn’t a case that he didn’t stay the trip. His win at Chester on soft ground proved that he stays.
For me, with experience under his belt, the Arc in October, where he’ll have his favoured soft ground, might be when we see the best of Sir Dragonet.
So, here’s a prediction for the Epsom five which were separated by less than a length last Saturday.
Anthony Van Dyke will win the St Leger. Madhmoon will win the Irish Champion Stakes. Broome will win the Juddmonte International Stakes. Japan will win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. Sir Dragonet will win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
A bit of a wild prediction I know but whatever happens, you can be sure that the first Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the new look Curragh will be a race to saviour.