Donn's Articles » Aidan O’Brien juveniles

Aidan O’Brien juveniles

Dewhurst Stakes, Newmarket, mid-October, City Of Troy jumps out of the gate smartly and leads from early.  Ryan Moore is happy to allow him settle there, in front, bowling along in his comfort zone, in his racing rhythm.  

The rider gets a little lower in the saddle as they pass the three-furlong marker, and City Of Troy changes gear.  Alyanaabi challenges on the near side, but City Of Troy picks up again.  He goes forward as the two-furlong pole flashes past, puts distance between himself and his rivals.  

Into the Dip and up the hill, and Aidan O’Brien’s colt extends again, his long stride taking him further and further clear of his rivals as they race up the hill, three and a half lengths clear when he hits the winning line, unbeaten record still intact, sparkling reputation further enhanced. 

“He was a very special horse from a very early stage,” says Aidan O’Brien now, a couple of days later, reflecting on the performance.  “When we started working him with the early horses, half-speeding him up, he was going up with the real quick horses, and he was doing it with his head in his chest on very heavy ground. So he looked like he was going to be different.”

City Of Troy’s reputation went before him when he made his racecourse debut at The Curragh on Irish Derby weekend, and he was sent off a short-priced favourite for a seven-furlong maiden.

“When we ran him first time,” says his trainer, “Ryan rode him forward, he started letting him go at the two and he took off going to the line.  Ryan said he never ever got a fright like that before, that he galloped down to the white wall at the end of The Curragh the same as if it wasn’t even there!  He said that he never felt that on a horse before.”

Just two weeks after he made his racecourse debut, City Of Troy went to Newmarket for the Group 2 Superlative Stakes, and he danced in.  Ryan Moore asked him for his effort fully two furlongs out, and the response was unequivocal.  The more the race progressed, the further the Justify colt went clear of his rivals, and he had six and a half lengths in hand by the time he reached the winning line.

“What’s unusual about him,” says Aidan, “is that when he goes past the two-furlong marker, his stride starts getting longer and longer.  I shouldn’t be saying it, but we’ve never seen him getting tired yet.  That’s a very unusual thing in a horse.”

The Triple Crown talk is quiet, but it is understandable.  (Justified even.)  Nijinsky is still the last horse to complete the Triple Crown, to win the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger, and that was in 1970.  That’s over a half a century ago now.  Aidan O’Brien went mighty close in 2012 with Camelot – won the Guineas, won the Derby, just beaten by Encke in the St Leger – and it is something that has been at least in the back of the minds of Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore partners since then.

“The lads will decide all those things,” says Aidan thoughtfully, “but when Camelot got beaten, we always hoped that we would have a horse who was good enough.  He’s by a Belmont winner, he’s got loads of speed, but looking at his pedigree, there is every chance that he could get a mile and a quarter, a mile and a half.  He could even get further.  You’d have to say that you’d be very comfortable starting him (next year) in the Guineas.  But it’s very exciting really.” 

That Belmont winner is Justify, also a Kentucky Derby winner and a Preakness Stakes winner, American Triple Crown winner, and he is just as exciting.

“We didn’t think Justify could be bought,” says Aidan.  “But John was going to try and buy him and, when he did, it was incredible.  Because John really believes in Classic blood, and for Classic blood, you have to have speed and you have to have stamina.  I think what’s catching a lot of pedigrees now is the stamina is disappearing.  These fast horses are getting to six and seven furlongs, but they’re not able to carry through the class or the speed any more.”

Justify’s oldest sons and daughters are only three, but already they are showing those Classic traits.

“What’s very unusual about Justify is, they’re carrying on over seven furlongs, a mile, a mile and a quarter.  It’s very exciting what could be going to happen here.  He’s obviously a dirt horse, so they’re going to go on dirt with their eyes closed.  You’d imagine, they’re going to be every bit as good if not better on the dirt.  They’re going to cruise and, when they go up to a mile, a mile and a quarter, they’re going to be unbelievable I think.”

City Of Troy is obviously the headline act, no better than even money for next year’s 2000 Guineas already and as short as 6/4 in places for the Derby, but there is an extraordinary depth to the Ballydoyle juveniles as a collective this season.

Opera Singer is also by Justify, and she has progressed as the season has developed and as she has stepped up in trip.

“When she went to a mile, she just grew another leg,” says Aidan.  “Seamus rode her at The Curragh in August, he went forward and, when he started to move at the two-marker, there was nothing going to go near her.  She just kept going away.  Ryan did the same thing on her in France (in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac), and the same thing, at the two you knew there was nothing going to go near her.”

Henry Longfellow has, like City Of Troy, run three times and won three times.  All three runs have been over seven furlongs at The Curragh – a maiden in July, the Group 2 Futurity Stakes in August, the Group 1 National Stakes in September – and, as he has stepped up in grade, every step, every month, he has stepped forward in terms of performance.

“He is by Dubawi, out of Minding, probably the best Galileo mare we ever had,” says his trainer.  “He is very like his dad as well as his mum, he handles all types of ground, and he has loads of speed.  That day in the National Stakes, there was a pacemaker and they went very fast, and he just gobbled them up.  Ryan was delighted with him.  He’s after having his three runs now, he knows plenty.  I’d say he’s going to be a fast horse, I’d say he’s going to be a miler, because of the pace he showed in the National Stakes.  They don’t usually have that pace unless they’re going to be very quick at three.”

Diego Velazquez is two for two so far, he followed up his maiden victory at The Curragh in August by battling on gamely to land the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions’ Weekend in September.

“He’s a very good worker,” says Aidan.  “We were a little bit disappointed when he won first time at The Curragh, because he shows loads of pace at home and that day he looked laboured, so he was obviously very babyish, very green.  We knew that he had to learn a lot at Leopardstown, so we ran the other Justify horse (Capulet) in it, and he took him along and went a good pace, and we knew that he would have to fight to get him, and he did.  He came out of the race very well, so we’re looking forward to Doncaster with him now.  He’s a lovely horse, great mover.  An unusually marked horse, white face and four white legs, very genuine, and probably one to improve a lot from two to three.”

There’s also Ylang Ylang, who bounced back to form at Newmarket last time and landed the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile.

“She’s a typical Frankel,” says Aidan.  “She doesn’t surrender easily.  She got a little bump two down in the Fillies’ Mile, and I thought that that was her chance gone, but Ryan felt that she had loads in reserve, and she kept galloping.  She looks very exciting as well.  She’ll go for the Guineas, and you’d have to say looking at her, there’s every chance she’ll get the Oaks trip too.”

Exciting winter ahead at Ballydoyle.  Classic traits everywhere.

© Adiyat Racing Plus, 31st October 2023