06/25/2016 4:18PM

Harzand holds off challenge to win Irish Derby


Harzand, the Epsom Derby winner on June 4, became a dual derby winner Saturday at The Curragh when he turned back a stern challenge from Idaho and won the Group 1 Irish Derby.

Idaho was one of four in the race for trainer Aidan O’Brien, but Harzand had help of his own in the form of pace-maker Ebidiyin, who opened a big lead and ensured the Irish Derby would reward Harzand’s stamina. Harzand raced third much of the trip, pressed the issue with about three furlongs left to run, and kept finding more as Idaho, who had raced behind the eventual winner, made his move with a quarter-mile to run.

Idaho never could get on terms with Harzand, who stayed on bravely and won by a half-length, covering 1 1/2 miles on good-to-yielding turf in 2:38.05. The top two were much the best, as Stellar Mass edged Red Verdon for third.

It was the third Irish Derby win for Dermot Weld, who trains Harzand for his owner and breeder, the Aga Khan. Harzand follows closely in the hoofprints of Australia, who won the English and Irish derbies in 2014.

Harzand nearly was scratched at Epsom after losing a horseshoe in transit from Ireland for the race, and even earlier this week, Weld cautioned he was not a certain runner coming back so soon after a demanding start in England. But Harzand took his spot Saturday and ran to form, winning for the fourth time in five starts.

The son of Sea the Stars – Hazariya, by Xaar - will get a break now, as will Idaho. But Weld did not hesitate to name the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as a major year-end goal.