06/07/2014 11:46AM

Australia proves strength in Group 1 Epsom Derby

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Before Saturday, the reputation of the 3-year-old colt Australia rested on speculation. Aidan O’Brien said he was among the best horses he’d trained. His pedigree, by Galileo out of Ouija Board, was impeccable. But in the Epsom Derby, Australia demonstrated he was more than airy hype.

Always in good position under jockey Joseph O’Brien, Australia ranged up to contend with three furlongs left in the Derby, overpowered Kingston Hill in the final quarter-mile, and went on to a 1 1/4-length victory.

Australia’s first Group 1 victory gave Aidan O’Brien three straight Derby wins, the first time that has happened in a race dating to 1780. Joseph O’Brien had ridden Camelot to victory in 2012, while Ryan Moore piloted surprise winner Ruler of the World last year.

Australia’s win came as no surprise to his many backers. Long the ante-post favorite for the Derby, Australia also was a heavily supported in race-day betting and delivered a fairly dominant performance. Away cleanly and fourth in the very early stages, Australia dropped back to mid-pack while staying outside and in the clear as the field moved onto the Derby’s left-handed bends.

“It was a nice, even pace,” Joseph O’Brien said. “I was cantering on the way.”

Australia moved up steadily as the race moved into the downhill late-middle portion of the course, and O’Brien feared he had reached contention too soon. But Australia had no trouble sustaining his rally, holding at bay Kingston Hill, who continued on gamely even after being passed.

“Horses don’t go any easier at the distance,” said O’Brien.

Kingston Hill finished two lengths clear of Romsdal, who was supplemented to the race and beat Arod a half-length for third. Winning time for 1 1/2 miles over a course rated good to soft was a solid 2:33.63.

Australia, owned by the Coolmore group, only had won at the Group 3 level until Saturday and had finished third last out in the English 2000 Guineas over a straight-course mile. His victory in the Derby was his third in five starts.

Cirrus des Aigles wins third straight Group 1 in Coronation Cup

The cliché with every aging horse of sustained talent is “he’s better than he ever was,” and with Cirrus des Aigles, there is far more than hollow truth to the words.

The 8-year-old gelding won his third straight Group 1 race and the sixth of his career when he defeated Flintshire by two lengths Saturday in the Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs.

Cirrus des Aigles won well but pulled up poorly. Jockey Christophe Soumillon dismounted shortly after the finish line, and Cirrus des Aigles was reportedly lame. He did walk into the winner’s enclosure with trainer Corine Barande-Barbe expressing optimism that Cirrus des Aigles hadn’t suffered a serious injury.

Last year, at age 7, Cirrus des Aigles lost the first four starts of his campaign, but he has been spectacular in 2014, finishing a good second of 15 in the $5 million Dubai Sheerma Classic in his seasonal debut before taking up the European portion of his campaign. On April 27, in the Prix Ganay, Cirrus des Aigles defeated Treve, the previously unbeaten filly who had romped in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when last seen, and on May 25, he easily won the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan.

Cirrus des Aigles raced for the first time at the tricky Epsom course Saturday but handled it with aplomb. Soumillon put him in a stalking position as Ambivalent set the pace, and by the three-furlong marker at the head of the homestretch, Cirrus des Aigles and Soumillon had ranged up into attacking position. Cirrus des Aigles struck the front with ease and had plenty left to hold clear a decent run from Flintshire.

Cirrus des Aigles, by Even Top, won for the 21st time in 51 starts.