O’Brien boys make Irish Derby a family affair
Latrobe wins Derby on a famous day for the O’Brien family at the Curragh
Donnacha O’Brien celebrates winning The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby with trainer and brother Joseph O’Brien. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Aidan O’Brien’s sons, Joseph and Donnacha, conspired to dramatically trump their father at the Curragh on Saturday when Latrobe landed a historic €1.5 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby success.
The 14-1 winner got the better of the champion trainer’s 25-1 outsider Rostropovich by half a length with O’Brien’s evens favourite Saxon Warrior a neck back in third.
Behind them were another Ballydoyle pair, Delano Roosevelt and The Pentagon, as O’Brien Snr’s hopes of a 13th success in Ireland’s richest race were foiled in what were, for him, the best possible circumstances.
Joseph O’Brien, 25, twice an Irish Derby winner as a jockey, famously denied his father a Melbourne Cup with Rekindling last November.
Now it was Latrobe, in the same colours of Australian Lloyd Williams, who gave him a first Classic as a trainer and insured it was the son who emerged on top.
This time there was the added joy of the winner being ridden by his 19-year-old brother Donnacha, who produced a superb ride off a slow early pace.
It was a third Classic success in 2018 for the youngest of O’Brien’s four children, who is an odds-on favourite to emulate his older brother by being crowned champion jockey this year.
Weight eventually ended Joseph’s riding career and there is widespread presumption his little brother will face the same fate. What also appears similar is Donnacha’s determination to pack a lot in to a short but glittering career in the saddle.
No one knew better than him the task of beating Saxon Warrior, having won the English Guineas on him in May. Earlier this month Donnacha also upset the Ballydyole pecking order with Forever Together’s Oaks success at Epsom.
However this surprise 14-1 victory in Ireland’s premier Classic probably trumped the lot. Brothers hadn’t combined before in modern history to win the Irish Derby and with the benefit of hindsight it seems significant that Donnacha deserted Ballydoyle’s four-strong team to ride for Joseph.
Pre-race plans to settle Latrobe were forgotten by the winning jockey as Rostropovich cut out a slow early tempo. Instead Latrobe kept tabs on the leader with Saxon Warrior just behind.
Nothing else got in a blow and momentarily in the straight Saxon Warrior looked like he might atone for his Epsom failure. However, his run petered out under Ryan Moore and it was Latrobe who stayed on best.
“I didn’t plan to be that forward but the pace was slow. I held my position and he stayed really well to the line,” Donnacha said. “We’ve always thought he was a really good horse and he’s shown today he’s very good.”
If the focus was invariably on the finish, his brother reckoned the split-second decision to forget plans and instead figure prominently was the decisive move in the race.
“We had intended on taking our time a bit, but Donnacha let him go forward as there wasn’t much pace on and that was the winning and losing of the race.
“He had a perfect position all the way, and committed him at the perfect time. The horse is tough and stays well,” Joseph O’Brien said.
Aidan O’Brien could have been forgiven mixed emotions but instead he seemed thrilled at the rare sight of a Classic so comprehensively dominated by a single family.
“It’s an unbelievably special day, you couldn’t dream of it. It would have been a sickener for us to chin the two lads, as I know how hard they work and we know how hard it is and how tough the competition is. I’m over the moon.
“We beat the lads most of the time, but you like to see everyone getting a chance. The two lads work so hard day in, day out,” he said.
Donnacha won on a son of Camelot, who his brother had ridden to Irish Derby glory in 2012. Joseph also won on another of his father’s odds-on winners, Australia, two years later. Shortly afterwards he retired and has forged an already stratospherically successful training career.
Many of its greatest moments seem to involve getting the better of his father. His first Group One came when Intricately, ridden by Donnacha, landed the 2016 Moyglare in another terrific Curragh finish.
Future plans for Latrobe are unclear but despite the ‘SP’ his trainer stressed: “We always loved him and bought him as a yearling in Newmarket. From day one we loved him and he never really let us down. This was Plan A.”
Ominously for his opposition, perhaps none more so than his father, Joseph also added: “I don’t know why but I get a much greater kick out of training!”
Saxon Warrior will be dropped back to a mile and a quarter for his next start and Aidan O’Brien nominated the Juddmonte at York and the Irish Champion Stakes as possible targets.
“He travelled very strong early and was plenty strong. The plan was always to go back [in distance]. We knew the lads knew their horse stayed. They got a nice lead and had him in a nice position, so it was going to be tough all the way up that straight at the Curragh,” O’Brien Snr said.
The Derby was a rare reverse on the day for the Ballydoyle team which had a hat-trick of winners.
Van Beethoven bounced back from a Royal Ascot defeat and landed the Group Two Gain Railway Stakes from the English raiders, Marie’s Diamond and Certain Lad. The 9-10 favourite had half a length in hand of Marie’s Diamond at the line.
On the sun-baked ground times were quick and there was none quicker than Battle Of Jericho who pounced late to win the five-furlong €100,000 Rockingham Handicap in just 59 seconds.
That sort of speed means Battle Of Jericho’s handicap days could be behind him with O’Brien nominating York’s Group One Nunthorpe Stakes in August as a potential target for the 7-1 winner.
“He’s a fast horse and Ryan said you couldn’t get there late enough with him. Ryan rode him in the Cornwallis last year and he got all locked up and he loved it. He’s a five furlong fast ground horse. He could turn into a Nunthorpe horse if he steps up again,” O’Brien said.
Battle Of Jericho has previously finished down the field in Royal Ascot’s Kings Stand Stakes and O’Brien explained: “We went to Ascot thinking he could run a big race but he was too green and babyish for that. But he would have learned a lot and it brought him on a lot. We think he’ll improve more.”
Fleet Review just nosed out his stable companion Intelligence Cross to land the six-furlong Dash, taking only a minute and 11 seconds to do so. Despite that O’Brien pointed out the tempo wasn’t Royal Ascot fast where both horses had run previously.
“The pace was a bit mad early on in Ascot but he [Fleet Review] got comfortable today,” the champion trainer said. “Sometimes the pace can be mad early in Ascot and you can get hung up on it and you’re in trouble.
“The July Cup and all those sprints are there for him. He’s a big horse and a three-year-old, so he could well progress.”
Jessica Harrington’s ever burgeoning impact on flat racing’s top fixtures was felt again when I’m So Fancy successfully dropped back to a mile and landed the Listed Celebration Stakes.
Colm O’Donoghue expertly plotted a route off the rail and I’m So Fancy, a 7-2 joint-favourite, had too much in hand for both Allegio and Ballydoyle’s other joint-favourite, St Patrick’s Day.
“She’s in the Group Two Kilboy [Estate] Stakes here [July 22nd] over a mile and a quarter so we’ll see how she comes out of this,” Harrington said.