O'Brien team can shine at Epsom
Aidan O'Brien could be poised for a couple of spectacular days at Epsom.
The Ballydoyle handler, without a win in an English Classic for more than three years, saddles four contenders in this afternoon's Investec Oaks.
He also has a serious chance of taking the day's other Group One, the Coronation Cup, with St Nicholas Abbey, ahead of another four-pronged assault on tomorrow's Epsom Derby.
Jessica Harrington saddles a fifth Irish runner in today's Classic. Her Siren's Song, which will be ridden by Fran Berry, was a tidy winner at Navan last time. While she is an unlikely winner here given the quality opposition, the Azamour filly would only enhance her profile if she were to manage a finish in the first half a dozen.
This is a cracking renewal of a Group One that O'Brien has won three times already.
Godolphin's 1,000 Guineas heroine Blue Bunting heads the market. Havant, a staying-on sixth at Newmarket, is deserving of respect for Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore now that she steps up to a mile and a half, while the unbeaten Lingfield Oaks trial winner Zain Al Boldan also catches the eye.
O'Brien's Wonder Of Wonders, though, is the pick of the lot. Stable-mate Misty For Me, a last-gasp winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas two weeks ago, boasts Classic form, but Seamie Heffernan's mount may not be bred for today's stamina test.
Wonder Of Wonders is. The first offspring of O'Brien's 2004 Oaks runner-up, All Too Beautiful -- a sister to Epsom Derby winners Galileo and Sea The Stars -- the Kingmambo filly left behind a poor reappearance effort when she sluiced home on stepping up to today's distance at Tipperary in April.
Wonder Of Wonders then displayed versatility by dropping back in trip to conquer the twists and turns of Chester in the Cheshire Oaks over 11 furlongs.
That experience will stand to her now and she is value at 4/1 to provide the rejuvenated Kieren Fallon with another famous triumph around a course at which he has few equals.
Fallon has four previous Oaks wins to his name, the last of which was also O'Brien's latest, Alexandrova in 2006. Having gone without a British Group One win since Yeats carried him to glory in the Gold Cup the same year, victory today would cap the Crusheen native's renaissance.
St Nicholas Abbey, the mount of Ryan Moore, may not face quite as thorough an examination in the Coronation Cup. A leading contender for the 2010 Derby prior to being ruled out for the season with an injury, the Montjeu colt faces just four opponents as he bids to secure O'Brien a fifth win in this since Yeats scored in 2005.
Henry Cecil's Midday, a five-time Group One-winning mare, may be his only serious rival.
However, an on-song St Nicholas Abbey would be superior to anything Midday has encountered before, and the manner of his nine-length rout of the field in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester last time augured well ahead of this.
Despite facing a High Court challenge from the owner of Native Khan, Fallon has been declared to ride O'Brien's leading Derby hope Recital tomorrow. The partnership is one of four Ballydoyle horses set to take part in the prestigious event, with no other Irish trainer represented in the final line-up of 13.
Last month's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner, a general 5/1 shot behind the favourite, Carlton House, and the Coolmore-owned French raider, Pour Moi, will be joined in O'Brien's quest for a first Derby success since 2002 by Seville, Treasure Beach and Memphis Tennessee. The latter, runner-up to Recital at Leopardstown, will be a debut Epsom Derby outing for the trainer's 18-year-old son, Joseph.