06/04/2016 12:26PM

Harzand prevails in Epsom Derby


Harzand, who nearly was scratched from the race after losing a shoe, won the $1.27 million Epsom Derby on Saturday by 1 1/2 lengths over US Army Ranger.

The victory was the fifth Derby win for Harzand’s breeder and owner, the Aga Khan, but the first for trainer Dermot Weld and his longtime stable jockey, Pat Smullen.

Idaho, like US Army Ranger trained by Aidan O’Brien, finished third, giving Ireland-based runners a sweep of the top three Derby placings. The John Gosden-trained Wings of Desire, the race’s tepid antepost favorite, finished a distant fourth.

It was on the trip to England from Ireland that Harzand lost a shoe and in so doing hurt his hoof. The injury was urgently treated by Weld’s staff, but Harzand’s participation was in doubt less than an hour before the Derby, Weld said.

Harzand was a one-race maiden upon commencing his 3-year-old campaign, but he won a Cork maiden race by 16 lengths on March 26, then beat Idaho in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes on April 10, a performance that encouraged his connections to take their chances in what was widely viewed as the most wide-open Derby in recent memory.

Both of Harzand’s wins in Ireland had come on heavy ground, and the Epsom course Saturday was drying from good to soft, but Harzand had no trouble adapting. As Port Douglas took the lead, chased by Cloth of Stars, Smullen was content to wait for his chance, racing eighth, three paths off the rail but mainly covered up through the early and middle stages.

Harzand wound up behind and between rivals as the field came off Tattenham Corner and into the long homestretch, but Smullen steered right and found daylight outside of Idaho. Idaho stayed on well enough, but Harzand a quarter-mile out appeared to have taken his measure, the challenge coming from behind and to the outside from Ryan Moore and US Army Ranger.

US Army Ranger was shuffled back to 15th coming into the final turn, and Moore had to wait a moment while caught behind horses after straightening up, but US Army Ranger was coming hard and looked like he might win a furlong out, only to be turned back by Harzand, who pulled clear again just before the finish.

Harzand became the first Derby winner for his Derby-winning sire, Sea the Stars. Now a winner in three of four starts, he was produced by the Xaar mare Hazariya.