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The Aga Khan's Harzand Wins Investec/Epsom Derby

Harzand Wins Investec DerbyThe Aga Khan homebred Harzand moved to the lead in mid-stretch of the Investec Epsom Derby (Eng-I) and fought off a challenge from Us Army Ranger to win the 1 1/2-mile classic June 4 at Epsom Downs.

Jockey Pat Smullen picked up his first Epsom Derby win after delivering a well-timed move, opening a clear advantage when passing Idaho in midstretch, and then fending off runner-up Us Army Ranger, the 7-2 favorite, for a 1 1/2-length victory in the £1,545,000 ($2.25 million) classic, the most lucrative race ever run in Great Britain.

Trained by Dermot Weld, who also secured his first Epsom Derby win, late-developing Harzand successfully completed a big jump in class as the son of 2009 Epsom Derby winner Sea The Stars didn't register his maiden win until a 16-length romp in his 3-year-old debut March 26 at Cork. He entered Saturday's classic off a clear victory in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes (Ire-III) April 10 at Leopardstown.

Harzand faced a physical challenge before the race as he suffered a sore foot caused by a shoeing problem and was nearly scratched.

"We had a huge worry this morning because he spread a plate travelling over and he was a very doubtful runner right up until about an hour ago," Weld said after the race. "With tremendous help from all of my colleagues and my team, we made it."

Smullen said a team effort made it possible for Harzand to compete at his best.

"It's what you dream of. For the boss to win this race is more fitting and I am delighted to have ridden a winner for him," Smullen said. "He is the world's greatest trainer and the trouble we had this morning. I didn't know whether I was going to get on the plane or not."

Harzand is the fifth Epsom Derby winner for the Aga Khan, joining Shergar, 1981; Shahrastani, 1987; Kahyasi, 1988; and Sinndar, 2000.

"This is a major gift for everybody who works with me in this wonderful activity. To win a fifth Derby for the family is obviously very historic," said the Aga Khan after matching his grandfather's five Epsom Derby wins.

Harzand is out of group III-winning Xaar mare Hazariya, who also has produced group III winner Harasiya, by Pivotal; and stakes winner Hazarafa, by Daylami.

Sent off at 6-1, Harzand completed the 1 1/2-mile test on good to soft ground in 2:40.09. He was followed home in the field of 16 3-year-olds by Us Army Ranger, and then 1 1/4 lengths back to third-place Idaho, who was five lengths ahead of fourth-place Wings of Desire, a supplementary entrant.

The second- and third-place finishers are trained by Aidan O'Brien.

In an earlier race on the card, favored Postponed secured his third career group I win and fifth straight win when he drew off late for an easy 4 1/2-length score in the 1 1/2-mile Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup Sponsored by Investec (Eng-I). Last year's Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Found finished second.

Returning from Dubai proved no problem for Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's Postponed, who prospered in his first start since a clear victory in the Dubai Sheema Classic Presented by Longines (UAE-I) on the March 26 Dubai World Cup card. Trained by Roger Varian, the 5-year-old son of Dubawi was guided to victory by Andrea Atzeni.

Earlier in the day Saturday, Epsom Downs honored Muhammad Ali with a minute's applause at 1:30 p.m. Ali died of complications of Parkinson's disease the morning of June 4.

-from www.bloodhorse.com

 

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