O'Brien waits on Abbey decision
A gallop tomorrow morning in Ballydoyle featuring deposed ante-post favourite St Nicholas Abbey is expected to have a crucial bearing on the final strategy of champion trainer Aidan O'Brien for next Saturday's English Derby.
Johnny Murtagh -- who wasn't as impressed as he has been in previous workouts by the English Guineas sixth in a spin there with Midas Touch last Friday morning -- is to partner the highly regarded colt once more, with O'Brien a keen observer.
"The work with Midas Touch on Friday was very strong and he was visually impressive, but it was the first time Johnny wasn't satisfied with St Nicholas Abbey, which we thought, until then, would win the Derby," O'Brien remarked.
"We will just see how the horses work on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings before we know more about our plans. Although Cape Blanco is still in the mix for Epsom, we're leaning a little more towards France."
St Nicholas Abbey has been on the drift since Friday and Gallinule Stakes victor Jan Vermeer, which has taken on the mantle of O'Brien's chief protagonist in the minds of many punters, was cut to 2/1 from 5/2 yesterday by Paddy Power.
It wasn't all plain sailing either at Leopardstown yesterday for the O'Brien-Murtagh partnership, as hotpot Age Of Aquarius was turned over by previous course and distance heroine Profound Beauty in the Saval Beg Stakes and Treasure Beach could not live with Kevin Prendergast's American-owned Longhunter on their debuts in the Moyglare Grenzen Maiden.
Age Of Aquarius, which had the benefit of a recent outing at Chester behind Harbinger in the Ormonde Stakes, was all the rage in the betting although the ratings suggested there might be little between this lightly-raced Galileo colt and the older Profound Beauty.
Shortening up a point to 4/1 beforehand, Moyglare Stud's home-bred Danehill mare was always tracking Murtagh's mount.
Pat Smullen waited until the closing stages before committing Dermot Weld's multiple scorer to a determined challenge that brought them to the front into the final furlong and she galloped right to the line for a half-length verdict.
"That was a proper race between two very good horses on a track beautifully prepared once more by the team at Leopardstown," Weld said.
"Profound Beauty had been working extremely well and she will probably run next in the Curragh Cup. The Yorkshire Oaks or the Irish St Leger would be a choice of races. I'd expect her to have her final run in the Melbourne Cup."
The Curragh trainer and stable jockey Smullen have made a habit of winning this long-established Listed race in recent renewals as Vinnie Roe obliged in both 2002 and 2005 while Media Puzzle also scored in 2006.
Despite this third runner-up placing in a row for Age Of Aquarius, O'Brien still intends to challenge with him for the Ascot Gold Cup as Paddy Power pushed the colt's odds for that marathon out two points to 7/1.
The preceding Ballycorus Stakes likewise proved expensive for odds-on backers when frontrunner Duff's attempt to repeat last year's Group Three success for Eddie Lynam's yard was foiled by 10/1 chance Six Of Hearts. Davy Moran carried out his instructions to come wide and late perfectly just as Duff had shrugged off main market rival King Jock.
This was a real fairytale outcome for veteran Mullingar trainer Cecil Ross and the members of the Round Tower syndicate from Kells, Co Meath, on whose behalf Ross acquired the Pivotal gelding for a bargain £10,500 at Doncaster sales.
"He'd already won six handicaps for us since starting off here on a rating of 58 and always runs a good race, but this is a marvellous result for the lads who had no luck earlier with a couple of poor point-to-pointers," Ross commented.
The Flat jockeys recorded a 1-2-3 to take the Craobh Chomortas Na Marcach Flat v Jump Jockeys Challenge Handicap, with champion apprentice Gary Carroll leading the Flat lads home on John Queally's easy winner Elyaadi.
Carroll led home Fran Berry and Declan McDonogh for a clean sweep of the first three placings for the Flat jockeys. Afterwards Queally indicated that Royal Ascot is on the agenda for his mare.
"Elyaadi needs a patient ride and has a good kick when she is held up. She will be given an entry in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot next; she just missed the cut for the race last year but should get a run this time around," the Waterford trainer explained.
After the second race in the challenge, the Flat jockeys completed a 79-63 points win over their jumping counterparts, although Alain Cawley led home a 1-2-3 for the National Hunt fraternity courtesy of his victory aboard Jessica Harrington's Sandymount Lady.
"I told her jockey Alain (Cawley) to wait, wait and wait, as she idles in front, and he gave her a super ride," the Moone trainer said afterwards. "She can't handle soft ground and is still a novice over hurdles so hurdling is an option again."
Owner/rider Paul McMahon partnered his Goffs Landrover Bumper runner-up Double Double to win the concluding bumper, scoring for trainer Charles O'Brien.
The son of Sakhee -- a winner at Navan on his debut -- ran out the one-length winner over Maytide (remarkably a half brother to American Triple Crown near miss Smarty Jones).
Following Double Double's win, trainer O'Brien stated: "I'm not sure where we go with Double Double next but he will probably be put away now; he may be kept for the Cheltenham Bumper next season."