Aidan O’Brien became the first trainer to win the Epsom Derby in three successive seasons when favourite Australia won the 2014 renewal in a style which he suggests that he could be a dominant contender among the more valuable horse races during the current campaign. The Irish trainer has always claimed that this horse could be one of the best occupants of his stable and the Australia confirmed his faith when accounting for Kingston Hill at the finish.
Having claimed success with Camelot and Ruler Of The World in previous seasons, O’Brien was adamant Australia was a better horse than those two Derby winners and after two average performances as a two year old, he proceeded to rout the much heralded Free Eagle at Leopardstown in September. When finishing third place in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, doubts began to surface as to whether the horse was as good on a racecourse as on the home gallops.
However, having been fathered by Derby winner Galileo and with Oaks triumphant Ouija Board as his mother, his breeding always indicated that Australia would be more suited to middle distance races rather than the Guineas mile. His win at Epsom vindicated this theory but it was the manner of his victory which impressed onlookers.
Jockey Joseph O’Brien was barely troubled throughout the race and although Kingston Hill provided some stern opposition, Australia did not appear to endure a demanding race in winning. Kingston Hill seems to possess stamina in abundance and it is surprising that he was allowed to compete in a particularly strong 2,000 Guineas in which he finished eighth. Meanwhile Romsdal finished a creditable third with Arod in fourth position but they were both somewhat adrift of the leading pair.
The Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes now appear the obvious targets for Australia as he seeks to cement his growing reputation, and there may be more improvement to come on the racecourse. Faster ground is said to be his favoured surface and the prolonged shower which affected Epsom on the morning of the race did slightly soften the going thus preventing Australia from starting as on odds-on favourite.
Aidan O’Brien will also be aware of his mistake two years ago when running Camelot in the Irish Derby with heavy ground prevailing and which he blamed for the rather lacklustre showings by the horse in subsequent races. Should the trainer can avoid those same pitfalls with Australia, the horse could emulate 2009 Derby victor Sea The Stars and dominate the flat racing scene over the coming months.
Sea The Stars won the prestigious Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe that same season and guiding Australia to such a famous win will be a further test of the training ability of Aidan O’Brien.