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O'Brien upbeat over Australia


Australia and Joseph O'Brien Photo: Patrick McCann

Australia and Joseph O'Brien Photo: Patrick McCann

Australia and Joseph O'Brien Photo: Patrick McCann

AUSTRALIA and Chicquita were among the star names that featured in trainer Aidan O'Brien's annual post-race gallopers at the opening day of the turf season at the Curragh yesterday as 34 Ballydoyle-trained horses went over seven furlongs in routine pieces of work.

Australia has been the Epsom Derby and English 2000 Guineas favourite over the winter months, and O'Brien was again full of praise for the Galileo colt, who is a son of the top class mare Ouijia Board.

"Australia is the second-best horse we've ever trained ... there was only one horse better and he wasn't a Flat horse and that was Istabraq," O'Brien said. "When he was racing he was a class above the others but this lad (Australia) has to go and do it now, doesn't he?"


Australia was ridden by Joseph O'Brien, and Aidan commented: "Joseph was very happy with him. He came back in and the first thing he said was not to run him on soft ground, that he hated it. That's not really a surprise, though, as he is a lovely moving horse.

"Over the winter, he physically has done wonderfully and I am very happy. He only sauntered up under Joseph, but he could have sauntered up and not been happy but I knew by him he was."

Australia worked in the first group alongside Dewhurst Stakes winner War Command, with both horses finishing in the middle of the group and, like Australia, War Command is Guineas-bound.

"Colm (O'Donoghue) was very happy with War Command and it was the same thing with him, he wouldn't want bad ground and being by War Front that's fair enough," the trainer said.

"Both horses will be trained for the Guineas and it's possible if it looks like Australia is going to Newmarket that War Command could go to France for the 2000 Guineas there. Both horses will go straight there."

Chicquita was returning to the scene of her finest triumph to date as she won last season's Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh when trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre before making a record-breaking €6m at Goffs as part of the Paul Makin dispersal sale back in November.

O'Brien said of the four-year-old: "Chicquita is not with us long, so she just cantered away up and done nothing really. The Yorkshire Oaks is her target and I entered her in the Tattersalls Gold Cup here, but she'll probably start in something else as her season will focus around the second half of the year."

Another filly to feature, and one that showed particularly well, was the current 1000 Guineas favourite Tapestry.

"We are very happy with her and she is as forward as I would like her to be at this stage and we'll give her an easy time and she will go straight for the Guineas."

English St Leger winner Leading Light was also at the Curragh yesterday and he will bid to become the latest Ballydoyle-trained winner of the Ascot Gold Cup later in the season.

"Leading Light is going the Gold Cup route and he'll start off in the Vintage Crop Stakes over a mile and six furlongs at Navan and then probably for the Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown."

Verrazano is a new recruit to Ballydoyle, having been a leading colt in America when trained by Todd Plecther, and he is another that is Royal Ascot-bound.


"The Queen Anne at Royal Ascot is his target and he could have a run before, but he won't run on bad ground. The Lockinge Stakes Newbury is a race, but that will probably be soft ground which would rule that out. We don't know anything about him yet."

Dermot Weld enjoyed a good start at the Curragh's first meeting of 2014 when he landed a big race double with Vote Often landing the Group Three Park Express Stakes and Stuccodor claiming the Irish Lincoln.

He also gave a positive bulletin on his highly regarded colt Free Eagle, who was second only to Australia in a Leopardstown Group Three Breeder's Cup Trial last September.

"Free Eagle is in great form and we are not in any hurry with him. We haven't asked him to do anything special and he's just going nicely.

"He's a good actioned horse and he'll probably reappear in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown."