Colin Keane celebrates Irish Derby success on Westover
By David Jennings, Deputy Ireland editor
Saturday: Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, Curragh
Unfortunate at Epsom, unstoppable at the Curragh. Westover became the most emphatic Irish Derby winner for 15 years when he routed his seven rivals by seven lengths under a typically uncomplicated Colin Keane ride.
Much was made of the decision to replace Rob Hornby with the three-time Irish champion and, if truth be told, the late substitution turned out to be irrelevant such was the superiority of Westover. He was relentless, this was a done deal from a long way out.
Keane did what Keane does best. He was always in the right place at the right time and let the horse do the talking. Westover never shut up and a mouthwatering rematch with his Epsom conqueror Desert Crown could now be on the cards in the King George next month.
Hornby may have lost the ride on Westover but he helped him win the race, providing his replacement with all the information he needed to ensure it was the perfect first date.
Keane said: “Fair due to Rob Hornby. I rang him this morning and he told me everything I needed to know about the horse. He’s a true gentleman.
“Rob told me that he’d get the trip well and will even stay further. He told me not to be afraid to use him up because the one thing he’ll do is get to the line, and Ralph [Beckett] said the same. He told me to get him rolling and that he’d stay going.”
Westover certainly did stay going and the further he went, the better he looked. This was a fourth Classic for Beckett, but a first with a colt, and what a special colt he has on his hands.
Beckett said: “Colin was positive on him from the outset and took the bull by the horns. Rob spoke to him earlier today and encouraged him to ride him that way.
“It’s important that you go out with your boots on in these occasions and Colin certainly did that today. I really didn’t think he would win like that at this stage. He’s a big horse and still a work in progress. He’s going to get better with age.”
After Westover’s Curragh romp, Beckett added: “I never felt he was going to stop when he got into his stride. He has a great temperament and that shines through today. The track suits him and it’s wonderful to get it done. It’s a big day for us.
“He’s going to develop from three to four, never mind through the rest of the year you would think. We’ll discuss it with the family and everybody to see what we do next.
“It depends how he comes out of today. He’s in the King George and that would certainly be an option.”
The 157th Irish Derby might not have been the highest-quality renewal but the presence of Oaks heroine Tuesday, only the third filly Aidan O’Brien has run in the race, added to its intrigue.
She was backed into joint-favourite, but running in a fourth Classic in less than two months proved a bridge too far, and she never got into it. O’Brien felt that was down to the way the race broke out in the blustery conditions.
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All smiles: Colin Keane is able to take in the moment as Westover crosses the line seven lengths clear in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby
He said: “I wouldn’t take from the first, second or third in any way, but the horses who sat handy stayed handy. With the wind it was hard to judge it. Nobody who sat back got into it.
“The winner is a very good horse, as is the second and third. We only finished fourth but she ran a respectable race and there is probably more to come. When you lose you always try and see what you could do differently.”
Piz Badile, with regular rider Gavin Ryan back on board, was best of the rest and Donnacha O’Brien believes there is more to come.
The youngest of the O’Brien clan said: “He ran a cracker and it’s nice to get him back on track after Epsom. I’m very happy with him. The winner is a very good horse.
“I think Piz Badile is going to improve throughout the year, and even into next year – he’s not fully furnished yet. We’ll see how he comes out of this and speak to the owners before making a plan for where he runs next. “
Paddy Twomey was proud of the third too, saying: “French Claim ran great and I think he’ll appreciate going further. He’s tough, honest and would like a bit more juice in the ground. On softer ground in the autumn, he could be a horse to be reckoned with.”
The future might be bright for the second and third but wondering what Westover might do next is what excites us most.
He is now generally a single-figure price for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – although Coral and Ladbrokes are offering 10-1 – and he is 5-2 favorite for the St Leger three weeks earlier with BoyleSports. The same firm make him 7-2 to exact revenge on Desert Crown in the King George.
Westover might have been unlucky not to finish closer at Epsom but at the Curragh luck never entered the equation. He was in a different class.
As was his rider, who tried to put the magnitude of the occasion into words. “Every jockey will say that the Epsom Derby is the race they’d like to win the most, but the Irish Derby would be the next best,” said Keane. “It’s great to win a home Derby. It’s unbelievable.”
Unbelievable, yet believable. It was only a matter of time before Keane won an Irish Derby and this, you sense, will be the first of many.
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