2011 - 2014

Strictly on Epsom form there was little to prevent Aidan O’Brien carrying off yet another Irish Derby, thereby equalling Robert Robson’s classic sequence which had stood for almost two centuries. In the absence of Pour Moi, last-stride Derby winner, Treasure Beach, the short head runner-up and Memphis Tennessee, fourth home, seemed to have it between them. However, trainer Michael Stoute’s confidence that Carlton House would improve on his luckless third in the Derby to make it a first success at the first time of asking for a royal runner in an Irish Derby. His enthusiasm proved sufficiently infectious to see Carlton House oust Treasure Beach from favouritism.

In what was becoming a familiar pattern Memphis Tennessee made it from his more fancied stable companions Seville and Treasure Beach. Taking it up in the straight, Seville fought off challenges from Native Khan and Carlton House, only to give best after a prolonged tussle with Treasure Beach. With Memphis Tennessee staying on again late to pip Carlton House by a neck for third place, Aidan O’Brien had once again completed an Irish Derby clean sweep, in addition to equalling Robert Robson’s classic sequence.

Bred by Brian and Jane Hammond at their Ashley House Stud in Devon, Treasure Beach was by Galileo out of Honorine, a winning daughter of 2000 Guineas winner Mark Of Esteem. Purchased as a foal for 180,000 guneas by Timmy Hyde’s Camas Park Stud, Treasure Beach had won twice as a two-year-old, reappearing to win the Chester Vase prior to his short head defeat at Epsom. Only fourth in the Grand Prix de Paris, Treasure Beach went on to win the Arlingtom Million. Kept in training as a four-year-old in which Mrs Fitri Hay acquired an interest, Treasure Beach failed to add to his score.

Winning rider Colm O’Donoghue had served his apprenticeship with Aidan O’Brien, remaining on as a valued member of the Ballydoyle team. Three times second in the Irish Derby, Colm had received his due reward when coming good, “under real pressure” in his trainer’s words, on Treasure Beach.

Winning rider Colm O’Donoghue had served his apprenticeship with Aidan O’Brien, remaining on as a valued member of the Ballydoyle team. Three times second in the Irish Derby, Colm had received his due reward when coming good, “under real pressure” in his trainer’s words, on Treasure Beach.

Amid continuing economic doom and gloom came the welcome news that Dubai Duty Free had signed up for a further three years’ sponsorship, to include the 150th Irish Derby in 2015. On the downside, the demands of terrestrial television coverage necessitated Irish Derby day being reprogrammed as a ‘twilight’ fixture, with the DDF Irish Derby the final event on an eight-race card, timed for 7.40pm, followed by a Ronan Keating concert.

None of this mattered, provided Camelot, unbeaten winner of the 2000 Guineas and Derby, showed up. Ten years had elapsed since High Chaparral had attempted the Derby double, successfully as it happened. The 2012 renewal needed the superstar that Camelot stood to become. His participation was increasingly threatened by incessant rain, which obliged the Curragh to classify the going on Derby day as ‘Soft to Heavy’. Aidan O’Brien, Camelot’s trainer, exercised characteristic restraint in describing underfoot conditions as “not ideal”. Speculation apropos Camelot’s participation was only set at rest following the announcement that the dual classic winner and odds-on favourite was a definite runner, but his stable companion Imperial Monarch had been withdrawn. As the latter was known to relish soft ground, this was widely interpreted as a precaution on Aidan O’Brien’s part, lest Imperial Monarch prove the better on the day.

Imperial Monarch’s withdrawal ensured Camelot starting long odds-on under regular partner Joseph O’Brien, the trainer’s son, who had earned his spurs as the new Ballydoyle stable jockey. In a field of just five, all home-trained, the only conceivable danger appearedto be Born To Sea, a half-brother to Sea The Stars, untried over the Derby distance and blinkered for the first time. So it transpired, Camelot overcoming ground he clearly detested to get home by two lengths from Born To Sea with Light Heavy a further nine lengths in arrears. The Coolmore consortium received deserved acclaim for risking their potential Triple Crown winner in such dire conditions.

Joseph O’Brien paid tribute to his mount. “I was very worried on the turn-in. It’s very heavy ground. They were barely getting through it. But he showed his class and his heart.” In doing as he did Camelot became Aidan O’Brien’s seventh consecutive Irish Derby winner and his tenth to date. Moreover, Aidan O’Brien had now surpassed Robert Robson’s two-hundred-year-old classic record, in addition to becoming his twenty-eighth Irish classic success, beating Vincent O’Brien’s record.

A bay son of Montjeu out of the Kingmambo mare Tarfah, Camelot had been bred at the Highclere Stud, Newbury, by Sheikh Abdulla bin Isa al-Khalifa and purchased as a yearling for 525,000 guineas by DL ‘Demi’ O’Byrne MRCVS on behalf of the Coolmore consortium. Preceded by a glowing home reputation, Camelot had made an odds-on winning debut at Leopardstown as a prelude to taking the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. Impressive when winning the 2000 Guineas on his reappearance, Camelot had overcome Epsom’s testing contours to win the Derby and had now become the sixteenth to complete the Epsom-Curragh Derby double.

Queried about the possibility of Camelot attempting to become the first Triple Crown winner since the mighty Nijinsky back in 1970, John Magnier surprised many by his response. “We’re so old these things mean more now. Had you asked me thirty years ago I might have turned away.” In fact, the decision to go for the Triple Crown had been taken well before Camelot was risked to restore the status of the Irish Derby.

Having won his seventh successive Irish Derby and his tenth in all, Aidan O’Brien revealed his motivation. “The Triple Crown is always the dream. This horse has passed all the tests. We have a statue of Nijinsky at the gate in Ballydoyle. He looks at us every day going in and out. We have always dreamed that we would have another one to put on the other side of the gate.”

Odds-on to emulate Nijinsky, Camelot found one too good for him in the Godolphin outsider, Encke, in the process thwarting Aidan O’Brien’s attempted clean sweep of the 2012 English classics. Camelot’s failure to complete his Triple Crown was widely attributed at the time to his Irish Derby ordeal. Subsequent disclosures would reveal that Encke’s dramatic improvement in form had a more sinister basis. An unsuccessful tilt at Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe compensation was quickly followed by a bout of colic. Happily, Camelot recovered to make a winning 2013 debut in the Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh. However, his failure to cope with Al Kazeen in either the Tattersalls Gold Cup or at Ascot, together with the untimely demise of his sire Montjeu in March 2012, saw Camelot retired to take his sire’s place in Coolmore.

Another‘twilight’ Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby seemed destined to fall to Ballydoyle, represented by Epsom winner Ruler Of The World and Festive Cheer. Ridden by Joseph O’Brien, Ruler Of The World started marginally odds-on to complete his Derby double, with only the supplemented English raider and Epsom runner-up Libertarian backed to beat him. In the event neither ran up to form as Trading Leather stormed home to beat Galileo Rock and Festive Cheer by one and three-quarters of a length and the same.

Bred by his trainer Jim Bolger, running in his wife Jackie’s colours and ridden by their son-in-law and longstanding stable jockey Kevin Manning, Trading Leather posted the second-fastest time for the race since St Jovite, Jim Bolger’s previous winner back in 1992.

The trainer described it as “probably my best day in racing. It probably doesn’t get any better than this.” Behind that statement lay a ‘back story’ whereby Jim Bolger’s conviction that Galileo had all the credentils to become a champion sire had seen him repeatedly send his best mares to the Coolmore freshman. Thus had he bred and raced Teofilo, undefeated juvenile champion and now the sire of an Irish Derby winner in Trading Leather.

During the winter Sheikh Mohammed acquired a majority share in Trading Leather, content to leave the colt with Jim Bolger for his four-year-old campaign. In the course of the 2014 season Trading Leather competed with honour at the highest level, with the end-of-season Japan Cup as his ultimate objective. Sadly, that ended in disaster. Trading Leather sustained such injuries in running that he could not be saved for stud.

Long before he made his racecourse debut Australia was being touted as the best Aidan O’Brien had ever put through his hands. On his last appearance Australia had become the first animal by a Derby winner, Galileo, out of an Oaks heroine, Ouija Board, to win the Derby since its inception in 1780. Only Kingston Hill, second at Epsom, posed any serious threat to Australia completing his Derby double. Once drying ground caused Kingston Hill’s withdrawal, Australia became long odds-on to beat just four rivals, two of those from his own stable. Those who took the price never had any cause for concern. Once Joseph O’Brien loosed an inch of rein the chestnut cruised clear to lead home another Ballydoyle one-two-three, beating Kingfisher and Orchestra.

Part-owner John Magnier – inducted into the Curragh’s Hall of Fame at this Irish Derby renewal – reflected on his lengthy association with the Irish Derby. “It is a pity that the French Derby has been reduced from a mile and a half to ten furlongs, because it used to be that the French Derby winner and the Epsom Derby winner would come on to the Curragh and it would be winner takes all. But there is no doubt, I get excited by a horse like this. Watching Joseph sitting up on him there, it was like watching Lester in the old days on some of those real racehorses. Aidan told everyone what he thought about the horse from early and now he has gone and done it.”

Australia continued his winning ways in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York from Oaks and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes heroine Tagrooda with Prix du Jockey-Club winner The Grey Gatsby back in third. However, the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown provided the upset of the season when The Grey Gatsby out-battled Australia to reverse that York form. Sometime later it was announced that Australia was to stand alongside his sire Galileo in Coolmore for the 2015 covering season, his fee set at €50,000.