Derby cruise for Australia
Aidan O'Brien's Australia was a facile winner of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh on Saturday.
The Investec Derby hero led home two stablemates, Kingfisher and Orchestra, after the race lost much of its lustre due to the withdrawal of Epsom second Kingston Hill, who was taken out because of the fast ground.
Good to Firm was right up Australia's alley and he was sent off the 1/8 favourite such was the simplicity of his task, and there was never a moment's doubt that he would add to his Classic haul.
Kingfisher took them along with Orchestra second and Australia third, places that remained the same for much of the contest, with the non-Ballydoyle horses, Fascinating Rock and Ponfeigh, outclassed in the rear.
As Kingfisher and Orchestra came under pressure in the final two furlongs, Australia cruised to the front under Joseph O'Brien, who looked over each shoulder for non-existent dangers, and he eased his mount down in the closing stages without coming off the bridle.
O'Brien has dominated this race like no other in recent years and Australia was his eighth winner in the last nine years and his 11th in total. It was the fifth time he has trained the first three in the contest.
Aidan O'Brien said: "He's got a lot of speed and so much class, it's incredible.
"He just relaxes in his races. Pace is his big thing, he just travels.
"It's very strange that he gets a mile and a half, but I would say he will shorten right up after that. I imagine he'll go back to a mile and a quarter now."
Asked about the possibility of Australia running in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 13, O'Brien said: "I would say he was made for that race."
Australia has been rated a special horse from his early days, as co-owner John Magnier explained.
He said: "It was very easy to spot Australia at the sales, being by Galileo out of such a famous mare. It was a no-brainer once he looked the part and, medically, he was OK.
"I was confident before the Irish Derby because I'd been listening to Aidan since he (Australia) was a two-year-old. You know Aidan doesn't do that (describe Australia as the best horse he has trained) in an arrogant way. He genuinely believes that and he just wanted to share it with people.
"Some days there would be Press people down there (in Ballydoyle) for three and four hours at a time and I guess you wind up, you have to say something, so if he believed he was good, why not say it? It adds a bit of excitement and, of course, it puts 12st 7lb on the horse as it's a stick to beat yourself."
Joseph O'Brien believes Australia could have even more to offer over a shorter trip.
He said: "This is a very special horse, he was an armchair ride.
"He has a massive engine and we still haven't seen the best of this horse.
"I'd love to ride him at a mile and a quarter - I think that's going to be his thing on fast ground.
"His attitude and his pace sets him apart from the others.
"He's a great mover and he's so well balanced. When I walked him down to the barn and came back before the race for the parade, he'd have stayed asleep.
"The Irish Derby is one of the races you watch growing up. To be riding in the race is a dream and to win it is unbelievable."