O'Brien admits to fitness concerns over Australia
Aidan O'Brien says he has fitness worries over Australia as the dual Derby hero prepares to face five rivals in a fascinating Juddmonte International, the highlight of the first day of York's popular Ebor meeting which starts tomorrow.
In some people's eyes the Ballydoyle colt still has something to prove after beating two second-string stablemates when he followed up his Epsom triumph by winning the Irish Derby, something of a non-race, at the end of June. The colt has had an extended break since then and O'Brien is concerned he has, like a lot of us, enjoyed himself a bit too much on his holiday.
"I suppose, because he has done so well, we are a bit worried about his fitness," O'Brien said yesterday. "When you give them a break going into the autumn you want them to do well. He did well, he did very well.
"He is a good bit heavier than he was in the Derby and I suppose that makes you a little more anxious. We would imagine that he will come on for the run."
But Joseph O'Brien is clearly keen to maintain their partnership as the jockey is set to do his absolute minimum of 8st 12lb to take the ride.
Australia will have stablemate Kingfisher, runner-up at The Curragh, for company in the race. Lined up against the Ballydoyle pair will be just two representatives from the non-Classic generation, Telescope and Mukhadram, which finished second and third respectively in the King George at Ascot last month.
The other protagonists are both three-year-olds - Kevin Ryan's locally-trained French Derby winner, The Grey Gatsby, and Derby fourth Arod, which goes to York on the back of a confidence-boosting nine-length win in a conditions race at Leicester.
Ryan Moore - who rode a Group One double in America on Adelaide and Euro Charline on Saturday - sticks with Telescope, while Richard Hughes will ride The Grey Gatsby. Coral offer 8/13 about Australia ahead of Telescope at 9/2, and Paddy Power are the same price about the favourite.
Moore, meanwhile, will also be on the red-hot favourite Kingston Hill when a dozen three-year-olds put their St Leger credentials on the line in the Great Voltigeur Stakes. Roger Varian's charge has yet to break his duck this season but will be expected to do so here.
The Derby runner-up's main opponents look to be Hartnell, viewed as a St Leger candidate by trainer Mark Johnston after victories in the Queen's Vase and Bahrain Trophy, and Michael Stoute's Gordon Stakes winner Snow Sky.
O'Brien will bring across both the impressive Tipperary scorer Granddukeoftuscany and Indian Maharaja. Observational is given another chance to stake a claim by Roger Charlton, having run moderately in the Gordon Stakes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)