O'Brien defends Irish Derby after fifth cleansweep

Aidan O'Brien holds up a trophy after a first place finish by George Vancouver during the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita Park on November 3, 2012 in Arcadia, California (AFP Photo/Harry How)

Dublin (AFP) - Recordbreaking Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien hit back on Sunday at the critics who claimed Ireland's premier classic, the Irish Derby, had become virtually a benefit race for his stable after he collected his fifth 1-2-3 in the race on Saturday.

The 44-year-old's Epsom Derby champion Australia completed the Derby double with an easy success at The Curragh, prevailing at prohibitive odds of 1/8 favourite to give the Irishman his 11th success in the race.

O'Brien's other two runners, Kingfisher and Orchestra, who had finished down the field at Epsom, filled second and third while the other two participants Ponfeigh and Fascinating Rock never got into the race at all.

It was the second time in the last three runnings that only five runners had competed in the race, worth more than 700,000 euros to the winner, taking O'Brien's overall winnings to over a million with the place money.

Much of the interest in the race dissipated with the withdrawal of Epsom Derby runner-up Kingston Hill on the day of the race.

However, O'Brien is adamant the race which, prior to his domination, often saw fields in the high teens go to the post, is still a championship as indeed is the Irish Champion Stakes run in September and which is Australia's next target.

"They are great races and have stood the test of time and are top-quality European races," he told At The Races TV channel.

"Yesterday's Irish Derby had three Derby trial winners in it (Kingfisher, Orchestra and Fascinating Rock) and Australia ran in the Guineas.

"The quality of the race is a lot higher than everyone thinks.

"If you look back at the Champion Stakes at Leopardstown there are very few races in Europe that if you add the ratings up of the horses who run in it would better it," added O'Brien.

Australia provided O'Brien with another landmark at Epsom on June 7 when he became the first trainer to win the 'blue riband' of the turf for a third successive time in what was his fifth win overall.