AFTER A slow start which saw him draw a blank in the first twelve races, Aidan O’Brien surged to his eleventh leading trainer title at Royal Ascot last week with five winners and four seconds. All nine were ridden by an inspired Ryan Moore who took his ninth leading rider title with seven winners.
Aidan’s five brings him to a total of 81 wins at the Royal meeting and he is now just one short of record-holder Michael Stoute who has had a lot longer to assemble his total as he began training in 1972.
Aidan also passed another remarkable milestone as he reached his worldwide 900th Group and Graded winner, including jumps as well as flat, and he will surely make the magical 1,000 total in the next year or two.
It looked like it might be a frustrating festival for O’Brien, Moore and Ballydoyle as they notched up four seconds before eventually getting off the mark in the 13th race towards the end of day two with his exciting two-year-old Little Big Bear in the Windsor Castle race.
Thursday provided their highlight of the week with a brilliant win in the Ascot Gold Cup with four-year-old Kyprios, denying Frankie Dettori and eight-year-old Stradivarius on his last Royal meeting appearance as they sought to match the four wins of O’Brien and Yeats.
Aidan was unusually upbeat about Kyprios which gave him his eighth win in the Cup: “We always thought he was courageous and Ryan had belief in him. When he really wanted him, the horse answered.
“Hopefully he could do it at the top level for some years to come.”
Princess Zoe, trained by Tony Mullins for Paddy Kehoe and his sister Patricia from Glynn, was second in this race last year to Subjectivest, and looked threatening when taking it up at the furlong pole, but was swallowed up in a strong finish after a slow early pace and faded back to finish sixth of nine.
In a tactical affair, Dettori found himself boxed in everywhere he tried to go until it was too late when he did get out.
Things went from bad to worse in the following Brittania Stakes when Gosden and Dettori were bidding to give the Queen a Platinum Jubilee winner at the Royal meeting with Saga, but he was left with too much to do and failed by a head to catch his nemesis, Moore, on Roger Charlton’s Thesis.
The deadly Ballydoyle duo had a double on Friday with Meditate in the Albany and a front-running masterclass from Moore on Changingoftheguard in the King Edward VII Stakes, and they made it five on Saturday with another top-class ride on Broome (6/1) in the Hardwicke Stakes.
There were four flat meetings here at home during the week, largely overshadowed by events at Ascot.
At Limerick on Friday, Aidan O’Brien found the time to send a couple of runners and won a humble two-miles two €12,500 handicap by six lengths with Waterville (1/1) under Seamie Heffernan.
Donagh O’Connor was a close-up second on Tai Sing Yeh (17/2) for Johnny Levins in a seven-furlong claimer, beaten by stablemate Salt Whistle Bay (14/1).
He went one better at Down Royal on Saturday when scoring a convincing fourth win on John McConnell’s Fennor Cross (3/1f). He could next be aimed at the Galway festival.
The Ulster Oaks (€31,500) and Derby (€100,000) formed the centre pieces at Down Royal on Saturday, and Aidan sent two to contest the Derby but came up short.
Cougar (6/4f) and Seamie Heffernan were beaten by a length and three parts by John Feane’s Urban Oasis (9/1), and pipped Jim Bolger’s Manu Et Corde (18/1) and Kevin Manning into third by a short head. O’Brien’s Shark Bay (17/2) was fourth.
The Curragh Irish Derby Festival is the centre of attention next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the highlight of some very good cards is the Dubai Duty Free Derby on Saturday afternoon. It is worth in excess of €616,000 to the winner, going down to almost €32,000 for fifth.
Turning to home, the local participation was very slim at the latest meeting at Wexford’s Bettyville course on Wednesday as the top Wexford riders are ruled out of the June meetings which are mostly restricted to qualified riders.
Punters enjoyed a nice sunny evening, though there was a cool breeze blowing through the stands and there were quite a few fancied winners.
Star of the evening was trainer Gordon Elliott who sent three runners and won with all of them under three different riders.
Best local performance was by Gordon Doyle’s (Knockmullan House, New Ross) Trans Wood in the two and a half-mile Visit Wexford Novice Chase.
The winner was Elliott’s hot favourite, Call Me Lyreen (1/4f), under Conor McNamara, but Trans Wood (50/1 into 20s) ran a gutsy race to finish second under Philip Donovan.
Elliott had earlier struck with Dartington (16/1) in the Boylesports Novice Hurdle under seven-pound claimer Corey McGivern who had ridden a double for Elliott at Downpatrick three days earlier.
Second was Mind Your Money (6/1) under Peter Carberry.
He completed the treble in the closing bumper and this was the most exciting of the three as Harry Swan, son of former riding star, Charlie, got up by a nose on Silver Breeze (2/1) from Second Subaltern (4/1), ridden by his owner John Reddington who last rode a winner in 2013.
He will never be closer than this to breaking his famine.
There was no Wexford success to report at Kilbeggan or Roscommon.
I forget to mention last week that there was a well-deserved tribute at the meeting before this to the late Barney Murphy from Castlebridge who died recently.
Barney had been involved with Bettyville for over 50 years on the catering side of things.
Board Chairman, Michael Murphy, paid a public tribute to Barney’s contribution and a minute’s silence was observed. R.I.P.
They race again at Bettyville on Friday evening, July 1, and it promises to be one of the meetings of the year as Cáirde Loch Garman, the Wexford GAA Supporters’ Club, is using it as a fundraiser. There will be a reduced admission price of just €10 for those who purchase in advance through GAA clubs and online.
A major corporate fundraiser will also be held, and tables are already sold out.
People may join the waiting list and may also book advertisements in the attractive racecard for the day by contacting the office at Chadwicks Wexford Park on 05391-44808.
There will be competitions for best dressed lady and gent. The main sponsor of the evening is Molloy Metals.