Smullen hails Derby as greatest ever victory

Jockey Pat Smullen celebrates after winning the Investec Derby.
Jockey Pat Smullen celebrates after winning the Investec Derby.
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“My greatest day is racing” is how Pat Smullen described his success on Harzand in the Investec Derby at Epsom yesterday.

Smullen added the world’s premier Classic to his impressive list of achievements that included the 2000 Guineas on Refuse To Bend in 2003, and his eight Classics in his native Ireland where he has also been champion jockey eight times.

He enjoyed a picture-perfect ride as he brought the 13-2 chance, trained by his boss Dermot Weld, to victory by a length and a half over US Army Ranger.

“It was my greatest day in racing. When you start out and dream of being a jockey as a child it’s something special,” Smullen said.

“You need everything to go right to win a race like the Epsom Derby.

“We knew we had a very good horse on our hands, but he is a horse that needs ease in the ground. There was sufficient ease in it for us and he’s improving rapidly.”

Smullen was delighted that for once the race went just as he had hoped it would.

“Everything went according to plan in the race which is a rarity,” he said.

“Drawn nine, Idaho and Seamie (Heffernan) were in eight and the horse that made the running (Port Douglas) was in stall 10.

“I thought that horse might make the running and that Seamie wouldn’t be too far away. Idaho is a very good horse. We beat him in the Ballysax and that is a very good race. I was quite happy to follow him all the way through the race.

“I’d been riding the race 100 times in my mind prior to it. For it to come off exactly as was planned was one of those rare things but it worked out.

“I think the most impressive thing was 100 yards from the line when Ryan (Moore on US Army Ranger) was at my girth, my horse found again. He pulled away to be a length and a half in front at the line. It showed he had a turn of foot as well as stamina.

“He’s a good horse and improving. Let’s hope he continues to improve.

“He’s 100 per cent genuine and has a huge heart. Tactically he’s very adaptable. My only worry yesterday was if he had the initial pace to get the position we wanted but he proved me wrong there.

“He jumped into that position really well. You can put him anywhere where it suits. Hopefully that will stand him well in the future in all these races.

“Yesterday was my greatest day in racing. Any Derby is very special but the Epsom Derby is such an historic race. I’m absolutely thrilled to have won it.”

Trainer Hugo Palmer.

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