After leaving Epsom wondering what might have been on Friday, it was back to business as usual for Aidan O’Brien as Anthony Van Dyck provided him with a record-equalling seventh victory in the Investec Derby.
Having seen his dreams of completing a clean sweep of British Classics this season ended following the narrow defeat of Pink Dogwood in the Oaks, the Ballydoyle trainer came out on top in the race he values above all else on the calendar.
Victory for the 13-2 chance – one of seven runners for O’Brien – looked unlikely at one stage, with Seamie Heffernan on and off the bridle, but after warming to the task he worked his way into it before getting up on the rail to defeat the gallant Madhmoon by half a length.
As ever an epitome of modesty, there was of course no crowing by O’Brien about the latest achievement in a career which has seen him break new ground on countless occasions. But equally it was a moment not lost on a man who handles victory and defeat with equal good grace.
The Wexford-born 49-year-old said: “We never thought we would be in the position we are in now and that is why we kind of have to pinch ourselves every day – that we are working with the best people and with the most incredible horses with unbelievable pedigrees and physiques and in an incredibly facility.
“We are in a very unique position and we feel very grateful, as we are learning a lot from it, working with the horses and people. It is incredible really.
“All the big races, we train the horses for them and we do our best – sometimes there is a lot of stuff you can’t control and sometimes the ducks just fall right for you in a row and it happens.
“That is why you have to be delighted and really appreciate it when it does happen.”
Every trainer needs a loyal team to succeed and in Seamie Heffernan, who was celebrating victory in the great race for the first time on his 12th appearance, he has the perfect ally – one he was quick to pay tribute to.
O’Brien added: “Seamus is an unbelievable fellow. He is a world-class jockey and always has been.
“We’ve known each other a long time, even before we went to Ballydoyle, and he has so many placed horses and big horses in so many races and won so many top races all over the world.
“I can’t tell you how delighted we are for him. Day in, day out he puts it all in and is incredibly experienced. As a horseman and jockey, he is second to none.”
Celebrating such a success may not have happened for Heffernan, 46, if he had decided to pursue the route in racing he wanted to go – but it was one he can at long last put on a CV which includes three victories in the Irish equivalent.
Heffernan said: “I’ve been around plenty of Derby winners – I rode his father (Galileo) in his trial and won it. It means a lot to win it.
“I’m always confident riding for Aidan, as anything can happen. It doesn’t matter whether they are favourite or a big price, as he trains them all for the big day.
“I got beaten in this race on a favourite one year, then came out and rode one at 100-1 and finished second. There is no other yard in Ireland where I would have got the chance to go round in the Derby 12 times, so I’m just happy to be taking part on very well-bred horses.”
He added of his wait for a winner: “It was only a matter of time. I wasn’t going to give up until I at least won one. The Derby is the top race. It is the best, maybe then the Arc, then the Breeders’ Cup.
“I actually wanted to be a jump jockey, so I’m probably lucky I didn’t grow!”