Weld, the outstanding trainer in Ireland, has had some near-misses in his local Derby, most recently with Definite Article, beaten a short-head last year, and with Zagreb's sire Theatrical 11 years ago. But if justice was done by the fates in Weld's case, they must have his stable jockey Kinane, on a different list. Kinane, still to win an Irish Derby in 15 attempts, chose to desert Zagreb in favour of Dr Massini and had to suffer in seventh place as Pat Shanahan took the glory.
With the runners-up in the Epsom and Chantilly Derbys kicked out of sight, it was surely the outstanding performance by a three-year-old colt this year, and Allen Paulson, in whose colours Zagreb runs, must have high hopes he now possesses a European version of his outstanding American champion, Cigar. Zagreb was racing for only the third time, having been a sick horse in the spring, but a smart piece of work on Tuesday, coupled with some much-needed ground-easing rain on Thursday night, tipped the scales in favour of the decision to let him take his chance.
It was only the second Group One victory, after Princess Pati's 1984 Irish Oaks, for the Tipperary-born Shanahan, 33. He could scarcely credit the ease of his win, saying: "I had a lovely run round in midfield and followed Dushyantor into the straight, then nipped between him and his pacemaker and kicked for home two down. I kept asking him, because I thought I heard hoofbeats, but they were only in my head.''
Supersub Shanahan's ride was confirmed only on Friday. He added: "I have every sympathy for Michael. But everyone is allowed one mistake in life, and this was his.''
Gallant Polaris Flight, trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, ran right up to his form, but down the straight was only chasing a shadow. His rider John Reid said: "As we turned for home I thought I was going best of all until I looked across to the winner. I couldn't believe how he quickened.''
It was an emotional moment for Weld, 48, who trains a stone's throw from the track and had previously won every big race in Ireland, and a Melbourne Cup and Belmont Stakes to boot, but his first thoughts were for the hapless Kinane. "Michael and I have a unique relationship which will last as long as he rides and I train,'' Weld said. ''I'd loved him to have ridden the horse, but circumstances, which I fully understood, said it was not to be.''
Zagreb, a lean, tall dark bay, has an autumn campaign planned, and will almost certainly stay in training next year. Weld added: "He's a big, late-maturing horse, and took time to get over flu after he won his maiden so easily. He'll miss the King George and probably take in the Irish Champion before the Arc.''
There were no excuses for Dushyantor, who was close enough if good enough at the head of the straight. Of the other fancied British challengers, Alhaarth, Don Micheletto and Sharaf Kabeer finished ninth, 10th and 11th. Spartan Heartbeat did better, picking up pounds 12,000 for sixth place.
There was some consolation for the cross-channel raiders in supporting races. The Chapple-Hyam-trained two-year-old Daylight In Dubai, beaten by Irish runner Verglas in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, made it tit-for-tat with a gutsy half-length victory over local hope Check The Band in the Irish equivalent, the Railway Stakes.
Gothenberg, from Mark Johnson's yard, ran away with the Sea World International Stakes, while Blushing Flame, who has led Dr Massini in much of his work this year, made sure Michael Stoute's journey was not wholly in vain by taking the Curragh Cup Stakes.Reuse content