Saturday 26 May 2018

'Cross' heads O'Brien's Newmarket raid

Trainer Aidan O'Brien: record bid
Trainer Aidan O'Brien: record bid

Thomas Kelly

Aidan O'Brien is responsible for five of the 16 juveniles confirmed for Saturday's Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket, but Caravaggio is not among them.

The Balldoyle maestro is set to bid for a record fifth victory in the six-furlong Group One and Caravaggio would have been his main hope if lining up on the Rowley Mile.

However, O'Brien revealed last month his unbeaten Coventry and Phoenix Stakes hero could miss the rest of the season after suffering a minor setback and he was not among those to stand their ground.

In his absence, the trainer could call on impressive Round Tower Stakes winner Intelligence Cross, as well as Courage Under Fire, Leo Minor, Peace Envoy and Sportsmanship. The Ger Lyons-trained pair of Medicine Jack and Psychedelic Funk are the two other possibles from this side of the Irish Sea.

Heading the home team are Charlie Appleby's Blue Point and Mehmas from Richard Hannon's yard. Mehmas came out on top when the pair met in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood, adding to his previous victory in the July Stakes.

However, Blue Point was seriously impressive on his next start in the Gimcrack at York, while Mehmas was beaten in the National Stakes at the Curragh by the exciting Churchill.

Meanwhile, Davy Russell is looking forward to riding in England on a more regular basis this winter following last week's announcement the he had reached a "gentleman's agreement" with prominent Welsh owner Dai Walters to ride his horses when available.

Russell also hopes to continue his association with northern-based trainer Nicky Richards after admitting opportunities are harder to come by here since losing his job as retained rider for Gigginstown House Stud.

"It's something to look forward to. Dai has been in the industry a long time and has invested a lot of money in it," said Russell.

The 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, Coneygree, could make his eagerly-awaited return in November's Betfair Chase at Haydock after connections admitted they were "tempted" to pursue the Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown.

Any horse which wins the Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March will pick up a £1m bonus.

Coneygree, which became the first novice in 41 years to land the blue riband, raced just once last season when winning at Sandown in December.

Irish Independent

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