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PAT HEALY: Brand Ambassador and racing photographer Pat Healy looks back on last weekend’s Irish Derby, and backs Seamie Heffernan to come out on top in the race for top jockey in Ireland.

Irish Derby reflections

The Irish Derby is my favourite race of the year. It’s the one race in Ireland that is broadcast to a worldwide audience and this year was no different with Fox News broadcasting to over 100 million people in America. It was also viewed by 40 million in Japan and when you throw in the likes of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada as well, it’s truly become a global event. The fact it’s viewed by so many people across the world is brilliant for the sport in our country and long may that continue.

To have witnessed a record-extending 14th win in the race for Aidan O’Brien was brilliant in itself and to see Seamie Heffernan win it for a fourth time was fantastic too.

Santiago winning the race was fantastic on a personal level because he won his maiden at Listowel and he’s now the third Irish Derby winner to have done that following on from Alamshar and Treasure Beach. It’s a great feather in Listowel’s cap  and with any luck there will be plenty more in the not too distant future. 

The phenomenon that is Aidan O’Brien

There isn’t much that hasn’t already been said about Aidan, but I really do think we are witnessing a phenomenon that we might not fully appreciate for many years to come. The number of records he continues to break is absolutely astonishing and I think it’s going to take something pretty spectacular for someone to be anywhere near as dominant as him. If you think about it, there are a number of trainers now in their 70s, such as Jessica Harrington and Dermot Weld, and given Aidan is only 50, it’s highly likely that he will win at least 20 Irish Derbies. If he does reach those heights, I really don’t think anyone will ever come close to what he’s achieved. 

Heffernan could finally be champion jockey

Although Santiago’s win in the Irish Derby was Seamie’s fourth win in the race, he still perhaps doesn’t quite get the accolades he deserves for how consistent a jockey he’s been over the years. You could describe him a bit like Ronseal! He’s dependable, makes few mistakes and is very experienced which is so important, especially in the big races. He’s been there and done it and knows every Irish track like the back of his hand. And with Ryan Moore stuck in the UK, this could finally be the year he’s crowned champion jockey.

There wouldn’t be one person who would begrudge Seamie if that were to happen because he’s been a consummate professional for a good few years now and is one of the nicest guys in the weighing room.  

She certainly was Magical

We all knew how good Magical was, but nevertheless it was fantastic to see her back on the racecourse and she looked better than ever when winning the Pretty Polly. She never came off the bridle and there will be bigger tests for her later in the season, but it’s always great to see these superstars in the flesh. She was obviously beaten by Enable on a couple of occasions last year, but I’m sure they’d put on another show this season if they clash again. I, for one, would love to see that!

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