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Harzand set for Arc tilt after Stellar performance

By Frank Brownlow

Published 27/06/2016

Derby delight: Harzand, Pat Smullen in the saddle, races to victory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh
Derby delight: Harzand, Pat Smullen in the saddle, races to victory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh

Ulster Derby winner Stellar Mass put in a brave display to finish third - at a whopping 33-1 - behind Arc-bound Harzand in the Irish Derby just one week on from his Down Royal heroics.

Stellar convincingly triumphed in the Magners-sponsored £100,00 showpiece but Epsom Derby winner Harzand was too strong at the Curragh on Saturday and was followed home by Idaho.

Harzand is to be aimed at the Arc after joining an elite band of horses to complete the English-Irish Derby double when taking the Dubai Duty Free-sponsored £1.5million Classic.

The Aga Khan-owned colt had to overcome a morning injury scare on the way to Epsom glory earlier this month, but had no such problem with the short trip from his trainer Dermot Weld's stable at Irish Headquarters.

In the race itself, however, Harzand had to show all the qualities of a top-class thoroughbred as his old rival Idaho did not go down without a fight.

The leading pair pulled clear in the final quarter-mile, with Harzand, the 4-6 favourite, asserting close home under Pat Smullen to win by half a length.

Stellar Mass was three and a quarter lengths away in third and Ed Dunlop's British raider, the supplemented Red Verdon, just behind in fourth after putting in good late work.

Harzand is the fifth horse to win both the English and Irish Derbies for the Aga Khan after Shergar (1981), Shahrastani (1986), Kahyasi (1989) and Sinndar (2000).

It was Weld's third win in the Irish Derby after previous triumphs for Zagreb in 1996 and Grey Swallow in 2004, and a second for Smullen after riding the latter.

"I knew Aidan (O'Brien) would have his horse better than at Epsom so I knew our horse had to be better than at Epsom," he said.

"He ran a magnificent race. He showed the speed that he has. People were saying he didn't have speed, well you saw it.

"Those two horses really picked up and quickened. Idaho is a high-class horse, he's always been that and he was at his best. It was a great day, a great ride - a special day. It was a proper horse race.

"He'll have a good break now and we'll train him for the Arc."

Harzand remained unchanged at 6-1 second-favourite behind 5-1 shot Postponed for the Arc, which will be run this year at Chantilly on October 2.

Belfast Telegraph

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