Victoria Derby triumph

Barely 24 hours after experiencing the most unlikely high of a decorated sports career, Denis Pagan’s feet finally hit the ground.

Just six months into his horse training career, the dual AFL premiership coach fully grasped the joyous reality he is now entrenched on the honour roll of one of Australia’s most prestigious races, the Group 1 Victoria Derby.

Pagan’s name now sits alongside racing immortals – Bart Cummings, Colin Hayes and Tommy Smith — two decades after ruling the AFL coaching ranks.

The 73-year-old masterminded two flags at North Melbourne in 1996 and ’99 as the pilot of a wildly successful AFL club.

Denis Pagan was still celebrating his Derby success on Sunday. Picture: Sarah MatraySource:News Corp Australia

As owner-trainer of Johnny Get Angry, Pagan has the support of several key racing figures, including Troy Corstens, but he’s virtually a one-man band compared to his AFL days.

On Sunday, as he lunched with his wife Cheryl and friends and family in Moonee Ponds, Pagan was still coming to terms with the biggest payday of his training career after landing the $2 million Derby.

“Great day, great day,” he mused. “I’ve come back to terra firma this morning when I got out of bed and realised what had occurred.

“It’s amazing. Gee, a 167-year-old race and I’m lucky enough to win it.”

JOHNNY GET ANGRY WINS THE AAMI VICTORIA DERBY!

Congratulations to Dennis Pagan and @LachieJamesKing on your first Group 1 wins. What a story! pic.twitter.com/0JHdlaZV4X

Pagan hardly celebrated on Saturday night. He had overindulged on Friday when he went out for lunch with fellow trainers from Flemington’s tower one.

“On Friday, and I just think of all the times I’ve been involved, under-19s, reserves and senior Grand Finals, and I’ve been like a zombie,” he said.

“I’ve walked around and locked myself in rooms, off my head.

“On Friday, I went out to lunch with all the boys from tower one and probably overstepped the mark and had to go down to trackwork on Saturday morning.

“But I didn’t have a care in the world.

“I didn’t have to worry about being responsible to owners or the board or supporters or media.

“It was just so enjoyable.

“So last night (Saturday night), I didn’t do much. I’d had too much to drink on Friday.

“The lunch today is to thank all the people who’ve helped me with Johnny.”

Johnny Get Angry gave Denis Pagan his first Group 1 win as a trainer in the Victoria Derby. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Pagan will send Johnny Get Angry for a spell before preparing the gelding for the autumn.

“I thought about running him in the Mackinnon Stakes (on Saturday) but wiser heads prevailed,” he said.

“He’ll go to Blue Gum Farm (at Euroa) on Monday morning. He’ll then go over to Troy’s (Corstens) farm and he’ll probably do a bit of pre-training out of the paddock to get him ready doe the autumn. See what happens from there.”

Pagan was disappointed Corstens and fellow Flemington trainer Saab Hasan were fined $1000 each for breaching COVID-19 protocols for embracing him after the Derby.

“Hasn’t this COVID-19 got some disasters associated with it?” Pagan joked. “Not the least opening up a phone account and punting all day.”

Pagan won’t have to worry overly about the occasional bet. His share, as owner-trainer, of the VRC bounty was $1.2 million.

WIDE OF THE MARK

Melbourne Cup history students won’t be overly fussed by Tiger Moth’s barrier of 23, even if the raider’s wide gate triggered a market drift. Vow And Declare won the Cup from barrier 21 last year, while Tiger Moth’s jockey Kerrin McEvoy has a proven faculty for defying the odds. He claimed the 2000 Cup on Brew from barrier 22, the 2016 Cup on Almandin from 17 and Cross Counter in 2018 from gate 19. McEvoy is one of three riders in the race – Damien Oliver and Glen Boss are the others – chasing a fourth triumph.

SLICK TIMES

Crosshaven was headed by stablemate Aysar in the Carbine Club Stakes but showed plenty of quality to respond and reel off the fastest last 200m (11.51) of the meeting. Aysar also figured prominently in the slickest sectionals of Victoria Derby Day, producing the best last 600m (33.53) and 400m (22.25). Cascadian clocked fast times for his final 1400m (1.19.76) and 1200m (1.08.28). September Run produced the best 1000m split (55.12) while Bold Star came home his final 800m in 44.62.

Crosshaven dug deep to win the Carbine Club Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

CHARM RETIRED

Udyta Clarke’s Rich Charm has run his last race after pulling up lame and making a slow recovery when running last at Flemington. Winner of nine of 28 starts, the gelding was among a handful of horses to suffer lameness on Saturday. Embolism and She Shao Fly were the others. Agreeable had the thumps, while Anders suffered a leg wound in the Coolmore Stud Stakes.

CUP RAIDERS

Tiger Moth and Stratum Albion are the two Melbourne Cup horses yet to race in Australia and among eight internationals in the race. Master Of Reality and Twilight Payment return from last year’s Cup, while Anthony Van Dyck, Prince Of Arran, Ashrun and Dashing Willoughby have run with varying degrees of success during the spring.

TWEET OF THE WEEKEND

“Owner & trainer – $1.2m for Dennis. AFL Coaches wages in 2 min 41.91 sec.” – Peter Morganti @morgzracing on Denis Pagan.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND

“I‘ve hardly trained a winner and I’ve got a Group 1. It was something special, I’d never in a million years thought it would happen and he’s done it.” Denis Pagan after winning the Victoria Derby with Johnny Get Angry.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Racing resumes at Ballarat on Monday with an eight-race card before the 160th Melbourne Cup at Flemington. Echuca also races on Tuesday. Cup action continues at Kyneton on Wednesday. Focus switches back to Flemington for the VRC Oaks. Pakenham also races. Warrnambool (day) and Cranbourne (night) share Friday’s double-header. The Victoria Racing Club’s blockbuster carnival draws to a close with the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes and Darley Stakes. Geelong also races. The Euroa Cup is run at Benalla on Sunday, coinciding with the Ararat Cup.

Denis Pagan trained horse wins the Victorian Derby

Horse Racing: Having coached North Melbourne to two premierships during the 90s, Denis Pagan has successfully transitioned into the world of horse racing after his 3-year old gelding Johnny Get Angry claimed the Victorian Derby

Originally published asWhy Pagan hardly celebrated his stunning Derby win

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