Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group 1)
SELDOM indeed are classics won in the manner achieved by the Ralph Beckett-trained Westover who produced an all-star display to rout an overmatched home team in the style of a colt with the potential to develop into an outstanding mile-and-a-half performer for the rest of 2022 and beyond.
A first Irish Derby winner to carry the Juddmonte colours since Commander In Chief prevailed here all the way back in 1993, Westover was crediting triple champion jockey Colin Keane with his first win in this race.
Early last week it emerged that Keane was to ride Westover in favour of the colt’s usual rider Rob Hornby and the first-named produced a ride whose simplicity belied its mastery.
From about a furlong into the race Keane had Westover right where he wanted him, tracking the pace-setting French Claim in second, and supporters of the 11/8 joint-favourite never had the slightest moment’s worry.
Admittedly this year’s Irish Derby might have lacked the depth one would hope for in the country’s premier classic but the race witnessed a spectacular effort from the son of Frankel who showed enough to indicate that he will be rated a superior winner of this race.
Beforehand the outcome of this year’s race looked to rest between Westover and the supplemented Oaks winner Tuesday and such was their apparent edge over the remainder, bookmakers were offering 12/1 bar the front pair. It wasn’t to be for Tuesday who had to settle for fourth.
Westover was perhaps a little keen after jumping off but he settled beautifully once he was able to get a lead from French Claim in a race that was run at a considered gallop.
Indeed, from start to finish not too much changed at the head of the field. French Claim gave a good account of himself from the front but he could do no more from shortly after turning in as Westover powered into the lead.
The British-trained colt then maintained a punishing and relentless gallop all the way to the line which enabled him to score by seven lengths.
Piz Badile showed his Epsom run to be all wrong as he came through to take second, two lengths ahead of a game French Claim. There was a further length and a quarter back to Tuesday in fourth.
“Colin was positive on him from the outset and took the bull by the horns.
“Rob Hornby encouraged Colin to ride him that way and Colin was very good. It all went beautifully and I didn’t think he’d do it like that. He’s big horse who is still a work in progress,” said Ralph Beckett who was adding this race to his three English classic triumphs.
“When he got into his stride he wasn’t going to stop. He drifted out in the middle of the track a little and is still a work in progress so I hope there is more to come and he is a horse with a great temperament and that shone through today.
“I’m thrilled to bits to come here and win. I was here in Ireland with Arthur Moore for two and a half years in the early 1990s and it’s great to come back here and win this race I didn’t think this would happen back in those days. In terms of this race the track was always going to suit him and the way the race was run fit him well too.
“He’s going to develop from three to four never mind the rest of the year so hopefully we’ve a lot to look forward to.
“He’s in the King George and that’s an option and he’s not ground dependent so we can go where we want with the horse once we are happy with him.
Beckett concluded with a few words on the winning rider: “Colin has ridden a few for me a few times and we were well aware of his talents. He’s the next in a long line of international jockeys to have come out of Ireland. He was very cool and very clear in what he was going to do and he’s gone out and done that,” concluded the trainer.
The winning rider added: “I suppose every jockey says the Epsom Derby is the race they want to win but it’s just amazing to win my home Derby.
“Fair dues to Rob Hornby. I rang him this morning and he told me everything I needed to know about the horse. Rob is a true gentleman and told me that he’d get the trip well and would hit the line well.
“The horse was possibly a bit keen for a furlong but once he got a lead he gave me a beautiful ride.
“He’s monster of a horse and he’s only going to get better. I’m just very grateful and thankful to the owners for putting their faith in me to ride this horse today,” concluded Keane.