At the Curragh, the Derby winner Australia duly followed up in the Irish version of the Classic, and as effortlessly as his odds of 1-8 suggested he should.
The late withdrawal of Epsom runner-up Kingston Hill because of ground judged too firm removed any real semblance of competition and Australia had little more than a paid – to the tune of some £650,000 – piece of exercise as he came home two and a half lengths clear of his Aidan O’Brien stablemates Kingfisher and Orchestra.
He had only four rivals – another Ballydoyle inmate, Geoffrey Chaucer, was also withdrawn – and his starting price was the shortest since Orby scored at 1-10 in 1907. But though his victory was bloodless, a top-class horse is always a joy to watch. The laid-back Australia, one of the coolest in the preliminaries, travelled sweetly in third under his trainer’s son Joseph before quickening past his rivals as if they were stationary objects, his ears happily pricked.
The handsome chestnut has carried the burden of being judged by O’Brien the best he has had under his care and although he is undisputedly the best of this year’s middle-distance three-year-olds, tougher tasks will now await against older generations. A Group 1 success back over 10 furlongs, which eluded his sire Galileo, would be a considerable plus on his stallion’s cv, with the York International in August and the Irish Champion Stakes in September two possible targets.
“He’s got so much class and so much speed,” said O’Brien senior. “And he relaxes so well. Pace is his big thing, which allows him to travel so well in his races.”
Australia was the 17th horse to complete the Epsom-Curragh Derby double, a sequence started by Orby. And where O’Brien is concerned, there are always statistics to put on file; it was his 11th Irish Derby winner, his eighth in nine years and his fifth clean sweep in the 12-furlong Group 1 contest.
The attention of the monopolies commission might have been caught at Newcastle, too, as Richard Fahey-trained Angel Gabrial, the 4-1 favourite, took the valuable Northumberland Plate. It may have been Fahey’s first victory in the historic two-miler, but it was his fourth of the afternoon, his 23rd in 12 days and gave him the feature handicap on successive Saturdays, after Baccarat’s Wokingham Stakes.
And for the second time this season owner Marwan Koukash had the one-two in a major staying handicap, with the same two horses but this time in a different order. In last month’s Chester Cup Angel Gabrial went under by half a length to Suegioo; today, with George Chaloner in the saddle, he turned that form around by three lengths.
The five-year-old, whose apprentice rider had also shown his talent on Baccarat, swept to the lead before the final furlong and galloped clear of Suegioo (12-1), who came clear of the rest of the pack. Repeater (28-1) beat Noble Silk (14-1) and Ardlui (20-1) in a bunch finish for third.
Angel Gabrial, a son of 2005 Irish Derby hero Hurricane Run, may now take aim at the world’s richest handicap in the staying division, the Melbourne Cup. “Most two-milers don’t have a turn of foot,” said Fahey, “but he does. He’d pretty talented and we’d have to be thinking of Melbourne now.”