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Image: David Cormack

Only three trainers could boast seven Derby winners on their CVs prior to 2019 and all of them hailed from a by-gone age. The three, Robert Robson, John Porter and Fred Darling were joined on that illustrious roll by Aidan O’Brien today as his Anthony Van Dyck, ridden by long term Ballydoyle work rider and jockey Seamus Heffernan took the Epsom Classic in what turned out to be a thrilling race.

Anthony Van Dyck is a fourth winner of the famous race for the superstar sire Galileo following the wins of New Approach, Ruler Of The World and Australia.

O’Brien saddled a remarkable 7 of the 13 runners and, in the end, 5 of the first 6 home came from this all-powerful stable. In the build up to the race it was O’Brien’s Sir Dragonet and Broome who headed the market with Hughie Morrison’s Telecaster the most fancied of the runners from other stables. Anthony Van Dyck was fourth best in the betting and he eventually started at 13/2 having been supported in from an early 8/1.

The O’Brien team, confident that their runners would have stamina on their side, sent outsider Sovereign into an early lead with most of the fancied contenders held up apart from Telecaster who was relatively close to the pace in fourth. Turning for home Anthony Van Dyck was being urged along and it was Sir Dragonet and Madhmoon who surged to the front two out, looking like they may fight out the finish. But Anthony van Dyck, who had been switched to the centre of the track and then back towards the rail when making his challenge, was starting to get into gear, as were both Broome and Japan. Racing to the line Anthony Van Dyck led close home with his four nearest pursuers half a length away and separated by only a nose and two short heads.

Madhmoon just held on for second from the fast finishing Japan. Broome was fourth and Sir Dragonet, completing a miserable couple of days for jockey Ryan Moore who’d finished second in two Group One’s the day before, was fifth.

“I needed a bit of luck, I came back on the bridle and switched inside,” Heffernan said when describing his slightly interrupted run. But, despite looking in trouble at one point, Heffernan said afterwards that he was “always confident” that he’d get up.

O’Brien was quick to pay tribute to the jockey, who has been a loyal servant to the Ballydoyle operation for many years. ‘Seamie is a world class rider and he is a great fellow” he said while adding that the man who masterminds the Coolmore breeding enterprise that has established the Galileo dynasty, John Magnier, was keen on Anthony Van Dyck. “John felt that he had the right profile for the race” said O’Brien, keen, as ever, to reference John Magnier to whom, he humbly realises, he owes a great debt of gratitude.

O’Brien nominate dthe Irish Derby as the probable next step for his winner and he may find Madhmoon in opposition again, as well as some of his stablemates.

As the dust settled on Epsom, it is worth reflecting on the magnitude of O’Brien’s achievements. Still not 50 years old (he will be 50 in October) he stands on the pedestal of racing immortality. To match the achievements of Dr Vincent O’Brien (6 Derby winners) is one thing, to surpass them is another and Aidan O’Brien has, in all probability, a few more Derbys still to go.

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