Harzand shows off grit and power to hold off US Army Ranger at Epsom Derby

Geoffrey Riddl reports form Epsom, where Harzand shook off a bloodied foot from earlier in the day and raced to a gritty victory.

Harzand, ridden by Pat Smuller, races in the Epsom Derby on Saturday. Henry Browne / Action Images / Reuters / June 4, 2016
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EPSOM, ENGLAND // Several hours before Harzand had won the Derby here he had his foot encased in ice.

Harzand had pulled off a shoe in transit from Dermot Weld’s yard in Ireland and when he arrived on the morning of Britain’s most valuable race his foot had bled and been poulticed.

In what was billed as one of the most open races in years, it therefore took another piece of magic from globe-trotting trainer Weld to seal the 237th running of the English Classic.

Weld patched up his inexperienced colt with the help of fellow Irish trainer Jim Bolger’s farrier, Jim Reilly, and sent out his inexperienced colt and jockey Pat Smullen to face 15 others for the £1.545 million (Dh8.2m) prize.

And at the end of the 2,400 metres of this unique and rolling racecourse Harzand showed the sort of grit and power that was a trademark of his Derby-winning sire Sea The Stars to hold off the late thrust of Coolmore’s US Army Ranger and Ryan Moore by a length and a half. Idaho, also owned by Coolmore, was third. It was a first win in the race win for Weld and Smullen.

“It’s unbelievable,” Smullen, who first started riding in the UAE in 1997 for Erwan Charpy, said. “The trouble we had with him this morning I didn’t know if he would get here, but it’s a great team effort. I’m delighted for them.

“To be fair to this horse, he’s a very good horse and he’s improved out of all recognition.”

It was a fifth victory in the race for the Aga Khan, the 80-year-old spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, who had struck previously with Shergar, Shahrastani, Kahyasi, and Sindaar.

“This is a major gift for everybody who works for me,” he said. “To win a fifth for the family is historic.”

Cloth Of Stars, owned by Godolphin, was the first horse owned by UAE connections to finish. Jockey Mickael Barzalona tracked the pace set by Colm O’Donoghue and Port Douglas, one of five horses in the race saddled by Aidan O’Brien. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s Massaat was slotted in to third by Paul Hanagan while the fancied horses Wings Of Desire and US Army Ranger were held up respectively by Frankie Dettori and Moore.

Cloth Of Stars showed up well for the first 2000 metres but then the petrol tank emptied before he finished eighth, one place ahead of Massaat, with Saeed Suhail’s Across The Stars in tenth. Moonlight Magic, Godolphin’s other horse, was last under Kevin Manning.

It had all started so promisingly for the UAE after Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s Postponed confirmed he is one of the best horses in the world when he spread-eagled a top-class field in the Coronation Cup under Andrea Atzeni.

The Dubai Sheema Classic winner put four and half lengths on Breeders’ Cup Turf heroine Found, while Simple Verse, who won a controversial English St Leger last season, had to make do with finishing behind pacemaker Roseburg in fourth.

Jack Mitchell led the field along on Postponed’s stablemate Roseburg, but in the early stages he was ignored and Silvestre de Sousa effectively set a moderate pace on Arabian Queen.

The slow pace played in to Atzeni’s hands as he was tracking Arabian Queen for much of the race and was placed perfectly coming down the hill in to Tattenham Corner, where he made his move.

Mitchell was all hands to the pumps as soon as Roseburg entered the straight, which put pressure on Arabian Queen who wilted to eventually finish seventh.

As she started to backtrack, Postponed powered on to become the third Dubai Sheema Classic winner to win the £400,000 contest after Cirrus Des Aigles and St Nicholas Abbey.

Postponed will now head for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot next month to defend his crown.

“He is a machine, he is just a proper racehorse,” Atzeni said. “You can put him anywhere in the race, he goes on any ground and he can quicken up – I am very lucky.”

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