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So what’s next for Harzand?

That’s the great thing about this racing game: there is always a what’s next.  Even after winning the Derby, there’s a what’s next

It is important to savour the moment, to appreciate the performance.  And sometimes there is too much focus on what’s next, to the detriment of the appreciation of the now, of the comprehension of the achievement.  But, as with many things, a significant part of the enjoyment is in the anticipation, in the conjecture.

With Harzand, anything is possible now.  There is no telling how good the Dermot Weld-trained colt could be.  There was a general feeling before yesterday’s race that this year’s Derby was not a vintage one.  But the strength of a Derby is only apparent with the benefit of hindsight.  It is impossible to gauge its strength before it has been run.

There was always a possibility that one colt would announce himself in the Derby, and, under a superb ride from Pat Smullen, Harzand has done just that.

Perhaps the Sea The Stars colt was seen more as a St Leger horse than a Derby horse before the start of this week.  Actually, it wasn’t until the rains fell on Epsom Downs on Tuesday that he really entered the Derby picture.  But now that he has won it, there may be more exotic targets than the St Leger.  It was interesting that, when Smullen was asked about the Doncaster Classic yesterday, he said, nah, let’s have a look at the Irish Derby.

And that is the ideal race for the Aga Khan’s horse now.  Paddy Power put him in as their 11/8 favourite for The Curragh’s Classic immediately after yesterday’s race, but it is interesting that they don’t have him very far clear of US Army Ranger, whom they quote at 13/8. 

In one sense, that it understandable.  There was only a length and a half between the two colts at the line yesterday, and US Army Ranger had to come wider than ideal and from further back than ideal.  That said, it is probable that Harzand won with more than the winning margin in hand.  Add to that the fact that he had that injury scare in the morning, and that he hadn’t run since he had won the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown in early April, and it is not surprising that he is Irish Derby favourite.  You can argue that he should be shorter than 11/8.

They are both hugely exciting colts.  US Army Ranger was racing for just the third time yesterday, Harzand was racing for just the fourth.  They both have huge scope for further progression. 

The all-aged middle distance races must also feature on Harzand’s radar now.  The King George at Ascot in July is an option, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is his obvious end-of-season target.

Interestingly, 80 minutes before Harzand won the Derby, Postponed won the Coronation Cup and was put in as the 4/1 and 5/1 favourite for the Arc.  After the Derby, Harzand was put in as joint-favourite for the Arc by some firms, while US Army Ranger’s odds were cut to as short as 8/1 in places.  And another brand new entrant to the Arc market is Friday’s Oaks winner Minding, who is also as short as 5/1 in places for French race.

This season is only getting going.

© The Sunday Times, 5th June 2016