Things We Learned » O’Brien dominant again

O’Brien dominant again

Aidan O’Brien was at it again this week: the 1-2 in the 1000 Guineas (from three runners), the 1-2-3 in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (from three runners), the 1-4 in the 2000 Guineas (from three runners).

There’s no point in just having the winners of races when you can have the second and/or third as well.  And O’Brien doesn’t discriminate between races or countries.  Irish Guineas, English Guineas, Irish Derby.  Even the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is not immune.    

Then, after a double at Dundalk on Wednesday evening (from two runners), he sent four horses for the Chester Vase at Chester on Thursday, and the numbers came up again: 1-2-3.

Of course, the Epsom Derby dominates the landscape at Ballydoyle at this stage of the season, and it will be interesting to see how the Aidan O’Brien Derby team will shape up.  A lot depends on Churchill, whether he will step up in trip now for the Derby, or go the Irish 2000 Guineas/St James’ Palace Stakes route. 

Precedent can help with the conjecture.  Camelot stepped up in trip and won the Derby, Australia stepped up in trip and won the Derby.  But both Camelot and Australia were essentially Derby horses who ran in the Guineas.  Australia is by Galileo out of Oaks winner Ouija Board, the fact that he had the speed to finish third in a Guineas was the surprise.  Camelot went on and almost won the St Leger, almost completed the triple crown.

O’Brien’s most recent Guineas winner before last Saturday, Gleneagles, stayed on the mile track, won the Irish Guineas, won the St James’ Palace Stakes.  And Gleneagles is by Galileo out of You’resothrilling, a full-sister to Giant’s Causeway.

Aidan O’Brien had five 2000 Guineas winners before Camelot, and only the first of them, King Of Kings, ran in the Derby. 

You can argue the case both for and against taking on the Derby challenge now with Churchill.  On the ‘against’ side, he is out of Meow, a sprinter, who ran five times in her life, always over five furlongs, who won a listed race over that trip and who finished second in a Queen Mary Stakes.  And she is out of Airwave, another sprinter.

On the ‘for’ side, Airwave stretched out to a mile to win the Group 2 Ridgewood Pearl Stakes and, far more importantly, Churchill is by Galileo.  He relaxes through his races, he gets a mile well and Ryan Moore says that there wouldn’t be a better ride in the Derby.

The fact that Aidan O’Brien had the 1-2-3 in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial and in the Chester Vase tells you that he has myriad Derby options.  He could dominate the Derby even without running the current ante post favourite. 

Derby trials

Common consensus is that the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial is the best Irish trial for the Epsom Derby (the clue is in the title), but it isn’t. 

There have been nine Irish-trained Epsom Derby winners since the turn of the millennium (also nine since Secreto beat El Gran Senor in 1984), and still just three of them, the first three, Sinndar, Galileo and High Chaparral, ran in the Derrinstown trial. 

Four of them (New Approach, Sea The Stars, Camelot and Australia) ran in the 2000 Guineas, and four of them ran in the Ballysax Stakes.  Harzand was the one who ran in the Ballysax but skipped the Derrinstown and went straight to Epsom.  One of them (Ruler Of The World) won the Chester Vase.

History says that you don’t have to win the trial in order to win the Derby.  New Approach and Australia got beaten in the Guineas, Sinndar got beaten in the Ballysax.  (For a bonus point, can you name the horse that beat him?)  Better if you do though.

None of the nine Irish-trained Derby millennials ran in the Dante, which presents a quandary for fans of Rekindle, who won the Ballysax and is now on track for York on Thursday.  Cape Blanco came close in a sense in 2010, he won the Dante and eschewed the Epsom Derby for a(n ultimately unsuccessful) foray to Chantilly for the French Derby before returning to The Curragh and winning the Irish Derby, while the horse that he beat at York, Workforce, won the Epsom Derby.

If, indeed, you are a Rekindling fan however, you want to see Joseph O’Brien’s horse going and winning the Dante on Thursday of course.  Benny The Dip and Motivator and Authorized and Golden Horn have all won the Derby in recent years after winning the Dante.

The horse who beat Sinndar in the Ballysax?  The Moyglare/Dermot Weld colt Grand Finale, by a head.  (I had to look it up too.)

Coincidences reign 

As has been well documented by now, when Bean Feasa won the Derrinstown Stud 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown on Sunday, she was winning it 16 years after her dam Speirbhean won it.  Both trained by Jim Bolger, both maidens going into the race, a listed race in 2001, a Group 3 race on Sunday.

Interestingly, while Jackie Bolger’s filly Speirbhean beat the Godolphin filly Najah into second place, her daughter Bean Feasa (say: Ban Fassa, we might have to get used to it, means fortune teller or wise woman or, literally, woman of knowledge) is owned by Godolphin.  You couldn’t have foretold that 16 years ago.

Speirbhean raced just once after her Guineas Trial win, she was well beaten in Imagine’s Irish 1000 Guineas, but obviously she is better-known now as Teofilo’s dam than as the Guineas Trial winner.  Bean Feasa could do better in the Irish Guineas.

More coincidences.  Horseplay, winner of the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on Sunday, is by Cape Cross, as is Ouija Board, who won the Pretty Polly in 2004 before going on to win the Oaks. 

Taghrooda also completed the Pretty Polly/Oaks double in 2014, and Taghrooda is by Sea The Stars, who is by Cape Cross, like Ouija Board and Horseplay.  Talent completed the Pretty Polly/Oaks double in 2013, and Talent is by New Approach, who is by Galileo, a half-brother to Sea The Stars.  But that’s not why Horseplay is a genuine Oaks contender.

Chester winners to the fore

There were four non-runners from the 15-runner six-furlong handicap at Chester on Thursday: the horses who were due to emerge from stalls nine, 11, 13 and 14.  In the 13-runner five-furlong juveniles’ maiden later on the card, there were six non-runners: those drawn five, six, nine, 11, 12 and 13.  It must be very cold out there in the outside boxes.

It is common knowledge that a low draw is key at Chester, but, while it is generally known that track position is important, it may be even more important than is generally appreciated.

Here is a synopsis of the Racing Post’s in-running comments for each of the 14 winners at Chester on Wednesday and Thursday:

(a) Made all; (b) Tracked leader, led 3f out; (c) Made all; (d) Tracked leaders early; (e) Chased leaders; (f) Made all; (g) Held up; (h) Made all; (i) Made all; (j) In touch; (k) Broke well, led early; (l) Disputed lead, definite advantage 2f out; (m) Pushed along early, chased leaders; (n) Made all.

So 12 of the 14 winners made all (six) or led/disputed early (two) or chased/tracked leaders (four).  Just one of the 14 was held up, Russian Soul in the final race on Wednesday, the seven-furlong handicap, and he got a dream run up the inside in the closing stages.

You can understand why Andrea Atzeni got his stick out for Zamjar through the first furlong of Thursday’s six-furlong handicap in order to ensure that he retained his prominent position along the inside rail.  You can also understand why Ryan Moore squeezed Deauville through the first furlong to ensure that he got the early lead in the Huxley Stakes, why Khairaat went from an SP of 1.99 to an in-running price of 1.5 after they had gone a furlong in the 10-furlong handicap once Jim Crowley had secured an easy lead for himself.

Far more races are won and lost in the first furlong at Chester than in the final furlong.

Frankel has a long way to go

A lot of the talk before the first Classics of the year last weekend concerned Frankel’s progeny, his prospects of having a Classic winner. Eminent and Dream Castle in the 2000 Guineas, Fair Eva and Queen Kindly in the 1000 Guineas.  All four came up short.

Meanwhile, Frankel’s sire Galileo was getting on with doing what he does.  Galileo had one runner in the 2000 Guineas, Churchill, and he had three runners in the 1000 Guineas, Winter and Rhododendron and Hydrangea.  Numerically, his representation was the same as his son’s, yet he had the winner of the 2000 Guineas and the 1-2 in the 1000 Guineas.  He remains a phenomenon.

 © The Irish Field, 13th May 2017