City Of Troy Gives Aidan O’Brien a 10th Epsom Derby Success

June 1, 2024

By Breandán Ó hUallacháin

City Of Troy (3/1 favourite) was a highly impressive winner of the Betfred Derby at Epsom, England, on Saturday, under jockey Ryan Moore.

Carrying the colours of Sue Magnier, the Coolmore partners-owned Justify colt gave his handler Aidan O’Brien a record-extending tenth victory in the premier classic, and was the 24th Irish-trained winner of the race.

City Of Troy, last season’s top two-year-old colt in Europe, flopped badly in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, England, on his seasonal reappearance last month when finishing an eased-down ninth of the 11-runner field.

O’Brien took responsibility for the colt’s failure in that one-mile classic, stating that he clearly hadn’t prepared the horse properly, even today admitting post-victory:

“We knew the ability he had. I left him too fresh leading into the Guineas – he just wasn’t prepared properly.”

Doubts expressed prior to the Derby

With doubts surrounding City Of Troy ahead of Saturday’s Derby, questions were being asked if he would stay the one and a half-mile distance, as well as whether Justify’s progeny train on as three-year-olds.

All of those questions were answered in emphatic fashion this afternoon, and all doubts were cast aside as the Ballydoyle inmate powered to a two and three-quarter length success.

There was drama as the stalls opened in the blue riband event as Voyage (28/1) unshipped jockey Pat Dobbs in the opening strides of the race.

Euphoric (33/1), a stablemate of the winner and eventual fifth-place finisher, was shuffled forward early by rider Declan McDonogh to take the lead and set the pace. Los Angeles (6/1), the other of the three Aidan O’Brien-conditioned Coolmore partners-owned runners in the race, travelled in his slipstream.

Rounding Tattenham Corner, Ryan Moore and City Of Troy were in mid-division, with the top jockey looking for room to exit the middle of the pack.

On entering the home stretch, Euphoric and Los Angeles quicked the tempo, allowing space to develop amongst the runners. Moore spotted his opportunity close to the rail, and City Of Troy displayed an electric burst of pace to hit the lead two furlongs from the wire.

With the aforementioned Voyage jockeyless at the front of the field, City Of Troy on the inside, and the eventual runner-up Ambiente Friendly (9/2) and jockey Robert Havlin on the outside, became the key players.

Though it looked initially as though Ambiente Friendly would pose a serious challenge to the race favourite, City Of Troy, the former made little impression inside the eighth pole, as his rival put distance between himself and the remainder of the Derby field.

City Of Troy crossed the line two and three-quarter lengths ahead of The Gredley Family-owned Ambiente Freindly, with another three and a quarter lengths further back to the winner’s stable companion, Los Angeles, who had been difficult to load into the stalls pre-race.

Deire Mile (25/1) – for Owen Burrows and jockey Jim Crowley – was fourth to cross the finishing line, another length and a half back, while Sayedaty Sadaty (50/1), from the Andrew Balding yard and ridden by Tom Marquand, was a further neck behind.

On the breeding front, it was a very successful race for Coolmore stallions, with sons of Justify, Gleneagles and Camelot occupying the first four places.

Though the winner was bred in the USA – by Justify out of Together Forever, the dam a winner of the Group 1 Dubai Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, England, in 2014 – places two to seven were taken by horses bred in Ireland.

Reaction from Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore

The winning handler, Aidan O’Brien, said of his 10th Epsom Derby winner:

“He looked very special all the way. The class they have [Justifys[ – they have speed as well as stamina. Ryan (Moore) gave him an incredible ride. We knew the Guineas went totally wrong. I made mistakes training him and that’s the bottom line. We discussed it before and there were stones that I didn’t look under that I should have. He was too fresh, he was unprepared and he blew up in the stalls when he went in, and that’s just the reality of it.” 

The Ballydoyle trainer continued:

“Ryan said he was very babyish and very green today – he said he couldn’t believe how green he was. The great stallion we had was Galileo. The Justifys are Galileo with more class, which is a very hard thing to say, but we see it every day.

“We had two horses in the race that were going to get the trip very well (Los Angeles and Euphoric). We were happy that it was going to be an even and properly run race, and if that happens the best horse usually gets a clear run. Both of those horses stayed very well so they were going to be forward.”

Speaking to the host broadcaster, ITV, now four-time Epsom Derby-winning rider, Ryan Moore, said:

“I was still very sure we had the best horse (coming into the Derby). Newmarket didn’t happen. He showed himself to be a brilliant two-year-old. In the Guineas we got a few things wrong. (Today) was the first time he’s run around a bend.”

Later in the post-race press conference, the English-born rider stated:

“This horse ran to a very high level last year. At Newmarket it didn’t go right. We got things wrong on the day, and maybe in the lead up to the race. And we put them right. We couldn’t be sure what was going to happen today after that, but everything had gone well at home, and Aidan knew what he had and didn’t lose faith in him. He kept doing what we were always going to do, and he won the race, and I never really had a moment’s doubt.”

When asked in the press conference about plans for City Of Troy, Aidan O’Brien offered the following:

“The lads [the Coolmore partners] had it in their heads that he might go to Saratoga for the three-year-old race on the dirt. They will talk about it between themselves and then come back to us with a plan, and they’ll talk to Ryan. 

“Everything is open to him. His dad was unbeaten, a triple crown winner [Justify]. To win a Belmont on the dirt, you have to get a lot further than a mile and a half. Unusual really, I think it’s the stride and the class they have. They’re very genuine.

“The Eclipse or King George – both would be open to him. When Ryan said he was that green through the race, that’s probably going to have to influence their decision where they’re going to go. Do they keep him at home, keep him on grass? And go one of those, or what. It won’t be an easy decision to make.”

Contributing Authors

Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Breandán Ó hUallacháin writes about Irish, British, French and Australian horseracing, both National Hunt and Flat. He has an interest in the history of racing...

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