Forty-six-year-old Séamie Heffernan added a long-awaited first win in the Investec Derby to his 2012 Investec Oaks win on Was and eight Irish Classics when bringing Anthony Van Dyck (13/2) from off the pace up the far rail to score on his 12th Investec Derby ride last Saturday.
Based on jockey bookings for the race, Heffernan was most likely on the third fancied Coolmore-owned horse, as Ryan Moore rode the favourite Sir Dragonet, and trainer Aidan O’Brien’s son Donnacha was on Broome.
Heffernan, joint Irish champion apprentice jockey of 1994, is the definition of a team player and his association with multiple-times champion flat trainer O’Brien goes back so far that he was on board Anthony Van Dyck’s sire Galileo when he won his ‘prep’ race at Leopardstown 18 years ago, although not in the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby, or any of his other races.
The rider, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Highland Reel in 2016, had been second before in the Investec Derby on Fame And Glory in 2009 and At First Sight in 2010, and there was no mistaking what Saturday’s win meant to him:
“I wouldn’t be able to win it if it wasn’t for the firm I am with. I had to take a hold from two down, which probably helped as it’s hard pushing the whole way down the straight. He’s a Galileo, so I knew that he would be with me when I needed him.”
The 2019 Investec Derby-winning jockey added:
“I’m always confident riding for Aidan. It doesn’t matter if they are favourite or a big price – he trains them all for the big day. Aidan trains them all for the Derby and some of them handle it and some of them don’t. That’s just the way horse racing is.”
Aidan O’Brien, for whom last weekend’s success was a record-equalling seventh win in the premier Classic, heaped praise on his loyal Ballydoyle stalwart:
“I am so delighted for Séamus, and it is a dream come true to win any of these races. Séamus is an unbelievable fella, he is a world-class jockey, always has been, we’ve known each other a long time, before we went to Ballydoyle we worked together. Séamus has ridden so many placed horses, so many big horses in so many races, won so many top races all over the world. Every day, day in and day out, he puts it all in, he is really experienced as a horseman and jockey he is second to none.”
The Ballydoyle trainer added that the win was well-deserved for the Curragh-born Heffernan, stating:
“Séamus has been placed for so many times. He has been working for us for so long and is such a special fellow. He has always been a world-class rider. We are so privileged to work with him and grateful every day, day in, day out. I am so delighted for him.”
Anthony Van Dyck is now being aimed at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at The Curragh on Saturday, 29th June. Séamie Heffernan is unlikely to maintain the ride on the colt when the son of Galileo bids to complete the Derby double; number one Ballydoyle jockey Ryan Moore will in all probability be in the saddle. That may not stop James Anthony ‘Séamie” Heffernan from completing a personal Derby double, however, as the man who joined Ballydoyle in 1996 as second jockey to Christy Roche has shown numerous times before you don’t have to be on the most-fancied horse to win a Classic.