Moore can rule on Kennedy in Leopardstown Derby trial
Aidan O'Brien confirmed this week that Ryan Moore will partner most of his big-race prospects in 2015 and tomorrow's PW McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes hotpot John F Kennedy fits firmly into that bracket.
Moore is expected to stop short of relocating to Ireland on a full-time basis, but he has long been courted by O'Brien. While O'Brien didn't go so far as to refer to him as his stable jockey, it was inevitable that there would be a formalisation of his link with Ballydoyle sooner or later.
Of course, the development means that Joseph O'Brien, whose opinion is so valued by his father at home, is likely to be reduced to a bit-part player on the track for the remainder of his days on the Flat. The 21-year-old dual champion's towering frame rendered his weight a major issue in some marquee Group Ones in 2014, so he has been on borrowed time.
O'Brien is likely to continue to ride as one of Moore's deputies alongside Seamie Heffernan and Colm O'Donoghue when his weight permits. Time will tell if he gets the chance to add to his haul of 28 Group Ones, a massive tally amassed in a four-year period that only Mick Kinane and Johnny Murtagh can top in their time as his father's respective first-choice riders.
Having ridden two of the elite firm's unprecedented three successive Derby winners, O'Brien will miss the opportunity to partner John F Kennedy more than anything else. The clear ante-post favourite to make it four in a row at Epsom for the exceptional Rosegreen operation, the Galileo colt is out of the stable's dual Group One-winning juvenile Rumplestiltskin.
He ran a little green when second to Hall Of Fame on his Leopardstown debut last July, but he progressed to hack up at the Curragh a couple of weeks later before then making short work of Group Three opposition back at Leopardstown in September.
Each of those starts came over a mile so tomorrow's 10-furlong trip is unknown territory, though that shouldn't be an issue. John F Kennedy faces just two rivals, and, while Ken Condon's Cork winner Success Days will be fit and Dermot Weld's Zafilani has potential, anything other than a smooth reappearance victory will constitute a major surprise.
Moore also gets the nod to take the 1,000 Guineas trial aboard Qualify. This is an open 10-runner Group Three and it might well prove to be a Classic trial in name only, with all bar Michael O'Callaghan's once-raced Roscommon maiden winner Military Angel having run three times or more.
Qualify wasn't spared as a juvenile, scoring twice in seven starts and not disgraced when eighth in Grade One company at the Breeders' Cup. Prior to that, she ran out a stylish winner of a Curragh Group Three, having not been beaten far in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
If she runs to a similar level now, she might be the one to beat. In the colts' equivalent, Jamaica flies the flag for Ballydoyle, but Dermot Weld's Zawraq is preferred in the Listed event.
In his sole outing last year, Hamdan Al Maktoum's Shamardal colt made virtually all en route to denying Coolmore's highly regarded Sir Isaac Newton. Zawraq only won by a half-length in the end but he won a little more snugly than the margin of victory suggests, so he is trusted to continue Weld and Pat Smullen's flying start to the season now.
The same duo get the nod to land the nap vote with the Aga Khan's Zannda in the opening fillies' maiden. It doesn't look to be the hottest three-year-olds' affair, and this daughter of Azamour very nearly won on her track bow here in October, when she failed by just a short-head to collar Off Limits, which ran well to be third behind Success Days at Cork. If Zannda has learned from that experience, she ought to take a bit of beating in this. Later on, Paul Deegan's Aussie Valentine will go close in the nine-furlong handicap. Chris Hayes' mount was a fine second to Onenightidreamed in the Irish Lincoln, a piece of form that stands out here.
Tony Martin has some useful-looking runners including Cassells Rock in the 12-furlong handicap, while his Lip Service has plenty appeal at Tramore in what is a pretty decent bumper for the seaside venue.
The Presenting gelding was a shade unlucky not to get up at the third time of asking in Downpatrick.