In less time than was required to etch his name onto an honour roll of Britain’s most famous race, Australia confirmed his standing as a star among his generation and created history for his quartet of owners and the trainer-jockey combination of Aidan and Joseph O’Brien.
Rarely has the G1 £1.3 million Investec Derby (2400m) been dominated by a horse so far from the finish. Epsom’s famed course has long been the testing ground for excellence and the 235th running was expected to be no different. But perhaps it was.
Australia, while midfield for most of the race in the 16 strong contest, always looked to be in control of his surroundings much like a conductor over his orchestra. And when required to deliver the telling blow his action was swift and calculating and the race was his.
In striding clear to win the Derby by a length-and-a-quarter from Kingston Hill with Romsdal a further three-and-a-quarter lengths away third, Australia secured several snippets of history. These included:
- Teo Ah Khing became the first Malaysian Chinese win to The Derby;
- The China Horse Club saluted in its first Classic after only two years of operation;
- Coolmore and its partners winning a fourth successive Derby;
- Trainer Aidan O’Brien created history by training the third successive winner of the race;
- Joseph O’Brien winning his second Derby at only 21 years of age
For Mr Teo and the China Horse Club the moment was indeed one to savor. Shared with Coolmore, a breeding partner in a major initiative in China, it was the latest and most notable racetrack success in a short window of time.
As outlined in an interview in Britain’s The Racing Post during the week, Australia was singled out as one of two colts Mr. Teo should share with Magnier and his partners. That was 2012 and the chestnut yearling was the first racehorse collaboration. Two years on and that collaboration now includes a Derby winner as well as current racetrack talent Zululand (G2 winner, G1 2nd in Australia), Jazz Song (G3 winner in Australia), Casquets (Listed winner in Australia) and breeding partnerships in both hemispheres.
The presence of Mr. Teo among what is seen as racing’s most elite syndication is indeed significant and is representative not only of an enduring friendship but also the rise and rise of racing in Asia and more particularly the growth potential of China.
The China Horse Club has been front and centre of many of the recent initiatives in China and its success in one of the world’s most iconic races will most certainly spur the ambitions of other likeminded members.
China’s focus on sporting excellence has seen it and its champion athletes dominate in most disciplines. To date thoroughbred racing is not among this list. The success of Australia may play a role in recalibrating the views of Chinese who want to play and succeed on some of the biggest sporting stages of all. The Derby is indeed that. The reverberations around the globe are already being felt and they go beyond the moment a Malaysian Chinese owner and his family was congratulated by Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II. The significance of the win, the winner and the ownership group will have an influence on the global thoroughbred industry in the decade to come. And all from the deeds of a chestnut that was snapped up at auction two years ago.
Australia, the colt bred to win a derby being by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner, was emphatic in his execution on the biggest of stages. While the margin was comfortable rather than dominant, there was at no stage during the race that he didn’t look set to impose himself.
Once the gates opened there was no stage where the pre-race confidence sounded anything other than well founded. Jockey Joseph O’Brien had the handsome chestnut midfield throughout the early stages of the contest content to ride his mount like the ‘good thing’ he was promised to be. O’Brien kept Australia well rated and with plenty of room as the field moved over the rise, the high point of the track, to ensure there was never a fear of being boxed in or having a ‘hard luck’ excuse.
Pressing on towards Tattenham Corner, the home corner going into Epsom’s long straight, Australia was held together and once balance up, smoothly rolled forward as O’Brien released the hand break. With 400m to run Australia has comfortable rolled up to outside the leaders to issue his challenge. Behind him, a field was feeling the burn of Britain’s most famous and grueling race.
O’Brien was again in the midst of a poised ride, one that belied his 21 years of age. And when he asked for a final effort from Australia he was rewarded with instant acceleration. The colt named after a country burst clear to confirm himself a conqueror and perhaps, just perhaps, Europe’s next star performer.
Magnier singled out the G1 Irish Derby as possibly Australia’s next contest while racing commentators immediately began discussions about the €5 million Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France – the world’s best race. It mattered little for those in the moment. Success was now. The rest will take care of itself.