Santiago held off the late thrust of stablemate Tiger Moth by a head to provide trainer Aidan O’Brien with his 14th Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby success.
O’Brien saddled the first four home with Dawn Patrol and Order Of Australia completing the quartet.
It was a truly courageous effort from the 2/1 favourite, coming just eight days afterhis Queen’s Vase triumph at Royal Ascot which was just his first run since winning his Listowel maiden last September, but he found plenty of reserves when Seamie Heffernan got the split and went for home turning at the two-furlong pole.
It was recent maiden winner Tiger Moth who emerged as the only real challenger under Emmet McNamara and though the gap closed, it wasn’t closing quickly enough to give the Limerick native a fairytale first triumph in the blue riband.
Instead, it was Heffernan who prevailed for the fourth time in a stellar career.
The €750,000 showpiece of Irish flat racing was beamed around the world to its widest audience ever, telecast on Fox Sports in America and the Green Channel in Japan for the first time.
“We’re delighted” said O’Brien afterwards. “He’s a lovely horse. We thought he would be a Leger horse we were going to look forward to next year. A lovely, clean-winded, honest horse.
“The St Leger looks a lovely race for him. There’s the second and the third as well. We’ll see what the lads want to do” added O’Brien. “We think he will be a lovely Cup horse next year but he has plenty class and travels well.”
“Seamus is a great fella, with a lot of experience and he works hard. We’re delighted for him. He knows the horses very well“.
“It’s a great credit to everyone for getting racing back. There’s an awful lot of people depend on it, a lot of livelihoods. It’s a strange time but times will change and owners will get back racing”.
“It’s great that it’s happening and a big credit to everyone that’s making it happen.”
Wayne Lordan made it six winners in two days when repeating his Friday treble, providing the first leg of an O’Brien double and also supplying a brace for Joseph O’Brien.
He was quick out of the traps taking the opening two races. Serpentine (5/2f) broke with alacrity in the Dubai Duty Free The Irish Village EBF Maiden and established an early five-length advantage.
Given a breather by his rider before the turn in, the Galileo colt bounded clear to win by nine lengths and is another who might have the St Leger in his calendar.
Lordan’s navigation on Buckhurst (13/8f) for O’Brien Jnr in the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Jumeirah Creekside Hotel Alleged Stakes was all about the fractions, as they led the field of three, closely followed by stablemate Numerian and the favourite Sir Dragonet.
The Cork pilot gradually wound his partner up and though his rivals loomed close, it was never close enough and by the finishing line, Buckhurst had pulled clear to prevail by an expanding length and a half.
He completed his master class in the Group 2 Comer Group International Vintage Crop Stakes and he did it from the front once more, having a willing foil in Joseph O’Brien’s Twilight Payment, who stayed on really strongly to take the spoils.
There was more listed success for Ancient Spirit (10/3) who followed up his defeat of the aforementioned Buckhurst in the Heritage Stakes to flash home late in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Celebration Stakes for the all-conquering Jessica Harrington/Shane Foley combo.
In the Listed Gain First Flier Stakes, Colin Keane charted a lone path up the stand side as Frenetic annihilated her opposition. Even allowing for her five-pound sex allowance, the eased down five-length win over a five-furlong trip was stunning.
The card also included two handicaps and it was fitting that on a day his late father Vincent enjoyed so much glory, Charles O’Brien would depart victorious, thanks to Big Gossey (14/1) and Michael Hussey in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Handicap.
And the good form of the Denis Hogan string continued ahead of Make A Challenge’s Group 2 Greenland Stakes when Big Baby Bull (11/1) followed up the promise of his debut run for Boherna Stables with a gritty win of the Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire Handicap.