Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Australia needs legacy

Hollow victory: Joseph O'Brien rides Australia to a straightforward 1-8 success in the Irish Derby

Australia became the 17th horse to complete the Epsom-Irish Derby double at The Curragh on Saturday. At odds of 1/8, he gave Aidan O'Brien his 11th win in the Classic and Joseph O'Brien his second. An attendance of 23,946 was the largest since 2010.

Those are the facts, apart from which we learned nothing new about a genuinely exciting three-year-old. It was a lamentable farce of a contest, a hollow victory and a sad indictment of the once mighty 12-furlong event's current status.

Just three stables were represented in a flagship €1.25m Group One, with Kingston Hill's defection a huge blow.

It was odds-on all week that he wouldn't run and it was regrettable that the concept of the Irish Derby as a race collapsed with one withdrawal, before Geoffrey Chaucer then followed.

Incredibly, €50,000 in prize money went unclaimed, with Fascinating Rock picking up €37,500 for making the short skip across the Kildare plains to finish last of the five runners.

When Camelot prevailed in a similarly insignificant edition in 2012, the same number lined up, meaning that two of the last three renewals have fielded smaller line-ups than any other in the previous 100 years.

It was an eighth win in nine years for O'Brien and his clean sweep of the first three places was a fifth for his utterly rejuvenated Tipperary stable since 2002. In short, it is an unhealthy state of affairs.

O'Brien defended the race's honour yesterday, saying that it "has stood the test of time".

Somewhat predictably, in the aftermath of Saturday's lucrative exercise canter, O'Brien suggested that Australia would manage fine over a mile, before then nominating the Irish Champion Stakes in September as a likely target.

The 10-furlong Leopardstown feature was the only one of the 12 domestic marquee Flat races to feature on a recent Racing Post inventory of the world's 25 most distinguished Group One races.

It makes sense that O'Brien would target the Irish Champion Stakes with Australia. However, given he will surely be retired at the end of the year, it would be great to see him campaigned with some added ambition.

Every month for six months in 2009, John Oxx gave Sea The Stars the opportunity to stake his claim among the immortals, a brave strategy that managed to yield the rewards it deserved.

A near three-month break in the middle of his three-year-old campaign won't ever permit Australia the same reverential glow, so it would be fascinating were O'Brien to embrace the full range of possibilities.

If Australia is quick enough for a mile, let him walk the walk. Be bold. There is a month to the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, where there is a score to be settled with Kingman.

That really would be an encounter worth undertaking and then there is a further six-and-a-half weeks to Leopardstown, with the Arc falling three weeks later.

It's an itinerary that could yield an indisputable legacy befitting a horse described by its genius handler as the best he has ever trained.

Prince is crowned king after easy victory

Fairy Prince wore the crown after winning the Book Online 525 final in tremendous style at Drumbo Park on Saturday night.

The brindle dog, owned and trained by west Belfast's Thomas McAreavey, was entitled to all the plaudits after an outstanding display. He set a blistering pace from the 'off' clocking a split time of 16.28 as he romped home five lengths ahead of Holycross Two in a brilliant 28.54 secs.

Moorlands Toots was third a length behind Holycross which was no disgrace considering the unstoppable show from the Prince who was certainly king on the night and confirmed his rise in stature in recent months.

Other fast 525 runs came from Ronnie McKeown's Spruce Fantasy who stopped the clock at 28.64 and Turfman (28.71).

The Friday night final, an A3 contest, also over 525, went to Martin McAliskey's Coalisland runner I Know Bolt. by four lengths in 28.77 secs

 

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