By: William O’Toole
As he cantered down to the start on Saturday, he had the weight of history on his shoulders. Never before had a horse lined up for the famous race with the expectations of a racing nation behind it.
From the first day he arrived in Co. Tipperary, Aidan O’ Brien had talked him up as a potential superstar. While his first two visits to the race track were nothing special, it was his last start as a 2-y-0 that made people sit up and take notice.
He slammed Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle, who also had a bit of a reputation at the time in the ICON Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial Stakes at the Curragh.
Plenty of shrewd judges left the track that day with the feeling they had seen something special. Then Aidan O’Brien started making statements the like of was never heard before from a man who is usually so reserved.
He showed it very early,” O’Brien said. “In March and April he was half-speeding with horses he shouldn’t have been able to half-speed with at that time of the year.”
In the weeks building up to the 2000 guineas, O’Brien said he was potentially ‘one of the best horses’ he had ever trained. And you just got the impression that he was going to be something special.
Of course he was bred to be special, his father was the great Galileo who had won the race and he was out of Ouija Board who had won the Oaks but that doesn’t always work out. He arrived at Newmarket with the O’Brien yard under a cloud but he ran a cracker, over a trip that was always going to be on the short side.
He finished a close third and the form of that race has looked bomb proof. In the aftermath of that race O’Brien started to hype him up even further.
“He could be a Derby horse like we’ve never had before,” O’Brien said. “That’s why he turned up in the Guineas.” And so, he arrived at Epsom with the world watching on.
For O’Brien it was a nervous build up because of the comments he had made but you just got the impression that it was going to end successfully.
The race its-self went to plan, he traveled like a dream for Joseph O’Brien, and he powered away inside the final furlong to record a famous win.
At the Curragh yesterday, he cemented his reputation as possibly the best horse O’Brien has trained. It is a race that his trainer has supported with passion over the years.
He had saddled 10 winners since 1997, prior to yesterday, and when Australia gave him his 11th win, he also staked his claim to be the best of the lot.
The ease with which he won was ridiculous. He never came out of second gear and he eased to a 2 and a half-length success. With the defection of Kingston Hill, the race didn’t look that strong but the horses he beat were no mugs either.
His two stable mates and Dermot Welds Fascinating Rock had all won Derby trials and on any other year they would have been worthy winners in their own right.
Time will tell how could Australia is but it would take a brave man to argue against O’Brien’s statement that ‘he is the best horse I have ever had.’