Tuesday 16 January 2018

Caravaggio soothes O'Brien's nerves as Ballydoyle land Group One double

Caravaggio, with Ryan Moore up, on the way to winning The Commonwelth Cup at Royal Ascot yesterday. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse
Caravaggio, with Ryan Moore up, on the way to winning The Commonwelth Cup at Royal Ascot yesterday. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

Marcus Armytage

Even with Churchill, Order of St George and Highland Reel - once-in-a-life-time horses for any other trainer - on the team, yesterday always looked like it would be Aidan O'Brien's best day at this Royal Ascot and so it proved as both Caravaggio and Winter justified odds-on favouritism to give him a Group One double.

Caravaggio was sent off the 5/6 favourite to retain his unblemished record in the Commonwealth Cup and he duly obliged.

Aidan O’Brien is congratulated by Floella Benjamin after Caravaggio’s victory in The Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. Photo credit: John Walton/PA Wire
Aidan O’Brien is congratulated by Floella Benjamin after Caravaggio’s victory in The Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. Photo credit: John Walton/PA Wire

However, it was not the cakewalk the betting suggested and he needed all his gears to finally overhaul the front- running Harry Angel and Blue Point in the last 100 yards to win by three quarters of a length.

The class of '17 sprinters look a fine bunch, especially if you include Lady Aurelia among them. And, if it took the winner until well inside the final furlong to get on top, that is not to knock him but, rather, suggest the second and third are also exciting colts.

Caravaggio will need to have hit wits about him if he is to keep beating them this summer.

"He is very quick," said O'Brien afterwards. "I'd be happier at two furlongs than six with this fella. He's the fastest horse we've had. He had plenty to do at halfway behind two good horses and he raced for only two furlongs. I was very nervous today as he was just ready to come through, so I'm delighted he did."

The trainer said he would be conscious about not giving him too hard a summer with the Everest - a new Australian $10m (€6.75) sprint at Randwick on October 14 on the same lines as the Pegasus in America, whereby you buy a slot in the line-up - a possible autumn target.

"I think that was a fairly exceptional race," said Moore. "He has beaten two very good horses there. They made him work and it is the first time he has ever been asked a question, so he was a bit unsure when he got the message but he responded well.

"I ride Limato in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes so we will see how they measure up."

Winter completed the Newmarket and Irish Guineas and Coronation Stakes treble with super efficiency rather than flamboyance under Moore.

Proving, after the reverses of Churchill and Order Of St George earlier in the week, that Ballydoyle had really hit its straps, she led home a 1-2-3 for the stable.

"She's a grand big mare, who is getting relaxed," said O'Brien.

"In fact I thought she raced lazy early although she galloped out strong. Every one of those three races are very hard to win. I go from race to race rather than trying to make it happen so I'm delighted."

"She's got a lot of class," said Moore. "She is only doing what she has to do really. It's hard thing to do, win both Guineas and come here. Attraction was the last to do it."

Asked whether Moore considered yesterday's Group One double some sort of consolation for Order Of St George's narrow defeat in Thursday's Gold Cup, the jockey replied succinctly: "No."

Mark Johnston rarely leaves this meeting without a winner - he has only trekked back north without a trophy three times since 1994 - but considered Permian's victory in the King Edward VII Stakes a relief as one of those blanks had been in 2016.

A Franco-Hibernian collaboration - French trainer, Irish owner - won the Albany Stakes with what is surely the bargain of the meeting when Different League beat the favourite Alpha Centauri by a neck.

The winner, owned by pinhooker Con Marnane, cost him €8,000 - less than some outfits at Ascot this week - as a foal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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